This week’s political news was Matteo Renzi’s withdrawal from the Democratic Party (PD). A long-awaited and planned move, at least from the 2016 referendum that sanctioned the inglorious early termination of his first experience at Palazzo Chigi. At the same time, Italy’s former prime minister announced the birth of “Italia Viva”, the political creature created to convey his ambitions in the complex parliamentary interlockings of the 18th Legislature.
Renzi’s move can be read as an attempt to establish a new, more moderated formation than the PD – which instead will inevitably be pushed further to the left – capable of intercepting votes and consensus even among Forza Italia and +Europa electors, with the aim of broadening the perimeter of the Italian center-left and enhancing its own bargaining power toward allies. What is striking, however, is the context of the secession. Renzi was in fact the principal supporter of this summer’s alliance between PD secretary Zingaretti and M5S chief Di Maio, to remove Salvini from power and guarantee the PD a renewed centrality during the course of the legislature.
The rift was opened a few days after the oath of ministers and undersecretaries of the Conte II cabinet, following a timing that now risks undermining the PD representation in the new administration. Furthermore, when Renzi’s parliamentary groups are up and running, the ruling coalition will have to rely on three main parties, a detail that is by no means secondary in view of crucial events such as, for example, the traditionally heated debate over the contents of the Budget law. Or when it comes to sitting down at the negotiating table to address the issue of public appointments. From now until 2020, in fact, the government will have to indicate over one hundred public managers, from the Board of INPS to the CEOs of ENI, ENEL, Leonardo and Terna.
Decisions that until recently would have been taken within the M5S-PD perimeter, where Renzi was fatally hostage to a double party-government filter. Instead, he has now the possibility of taking a leading role, betting on the fact that in the short term neither the PD nor the M5S will want to pull the plug on the Conte government. In this way he will also have time to prepare the ground in view of another fundamental event of the legislature, such as the election of the head of State in 2022. The events of the last month award Renzi the prize of most skilful tactician of Italian politics, capable to draw himself from the role of supporting actor to that of protagonist with few and decisive moves. His critics accuse him of bringing further disorder into an already complex and fragmented political framework, which is pushing the government into a period of tensions (proof of this is the immediate misstep in Parliament on the authorization to proceed against Forza Italia’s MP Scozzani) and provoking the irritation of premier Conte and president Mattarella.
Only time will judge the goodness of Renzi’s hazard and determine whether he will be able to dispose the tactician role to become a true statesman. The fact that the split occurred at this time, however, is yet a further sign that M5S and PD are planning to steer Italy again to a proportional electoral law.