Quirinale romance, part V: the stalemate of politics

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On Monday, the Italian parliament will begin voting to elect the new head of state, although the clouds of uncertainty continue to weigh on Italian politics. Rarely on the eve of the election of the highest office of the Republic had been a stalemate such as these days.

The need to fill the Palazzo Chigi box with a common and authoritative figure if the current Prime Minister Mario Draghi succeeds Sergio Mattarella has opened Pandora’s box on the leadership of the next executive. We are, in fact, in the presence of a double consultation.

Point is that the Parliament has perfectly understood that the end of the Draghi government is not without unknowns and that today the prospect of a leap in the dark is maximum. Republican history teaches that practically none of the approximately seventy institutional crises that have followed one another since 1945 has ever been resolved before starting.

This explains the reluctance of Italian MPs to endorse without anything to ask in exchange for the announced move to the Quirinale of the former head of the ECB. In the absence of agreements between the parties, fear is of throwing the Parliament into a chaos that if left free to grow could also lead to the premature end of the legislature. The differences on post-Draghi between Salvini, who would like a “government of leaders”, and Letta, who focuses on the “legislative pact”, are quite significant.

With these premises, only a few days ahead the beginning of elections, it is useless to be surprised if the political forces have not yet managed to find a way out of the impasse. The center-left prefers to play a throw-in, the center-right is blocked by Silvio Berlusconi’s self-candidacy, while leaders and ministers believe that in the best-case scenario, Parliament will be able to elect the President of the Republic no earlier than Thursday.

Waiting for clearings or unlikely twists, the opportunity is propitious to try to reflect on the causes of a stalemate that seems to come from afar and that it would be wrong to circumscribe only to the current political situation.

In the first place there are the political elections of 2018. The ballot drew yet another electoral geography in the country (hegemony of the M5S in the southern regions and collapse of the center-left in the “red regions”, with the advance of the League-dominated center-right wit) and confirmed the fears for the absence of a parliamentary majority capable of governing alone.

The consequences are known: three different executives with as many ruling coalitions in the space of just four years, the result of which was to deepen the crisis of credibility of the parties and their anchoring in society (both in existence for some time), to the point of highlighting their fatal inability to govern the crises that have unloaded on Italy with the explosion of the pandemic.

The absence of strong parties is a second explanation for the cul de sac in which the election of the head of state seems to have precipitated. On trial are political forces who are unable to express a ruling class capable of dealing with the difficult historical moment we are experiencing. The fact that the toto-names of these weeks has occupied the public discourse without leaving the slightest space for reflections on the national interest of Italy is symptomatic of the aforementioned disconnection. Yet in 2022 the country is expected by decisive games such as the reform of the EU stability pact and the management of NRP funds.

This is especially true for the center-right parties, which have the ambition of being the ones to propose the name of Mattarella’s successor to rebalance (even if only minimally) the relationship with the center-left forces that expressed the last four presidents of the Republic.

And here we are at the third point. The difficulties of the moment also arise from the obsession with the short term that seems to have enveloped every Italian decision-maker or politician in a transversal and almost paroxysmal way, exacerbating an ancient evil of the country such as the inability to make long-term projects and making the protagonists of the election completely unable to take even a simple step forward to break the deadlock.

Finally, it must be considered that on the horizon of politics there are elections destined to cut by a third the weakest Parliament in republican history. The official date is 2023, although it cannot be ruled out that the events of the next few days will not end up reserving some bitter surprises for our MPs. Hence the tragic struggle for the survival of these last hours, waged to preserve the mirage of an untouchable status quo.