Italian politics 2013 – Meet Mr. Grillo and M5S

They start a new party from scratch in 2009 and now they are the first party in the lower house of the Italian Parliament (and they got the third group for size at the Senate). Time to try to understand what means for Italy and for Europe the rise of “Movimento 5 Stelle” (M5S) and what they could do in the near future.

The story so far.

Mr. Giuseppe “Beppe” Grillo and Mr. Roberto Casaleggio are the prominent characters in this political “movement”. Both of them refuse to use traditional words like “party” for M5S, another way to remark any difference from all the other political subjects of the country. M5S starts from the meet-up groups, small aggregations of people who set up Net-based panels to discuss about political and environmental matters in 2009. The main goal was to  influence on local realities such as town administrations and/or how to debate about an array of different issues like green energy, pollution, use of public resources and so on. The meet-up groups find both a way to coordinate their actions and a powerful media amplificator in the blog of Mr. Grillo, one of the most visited and most followed blogs in the world. With the decisive actions of Mr. Casaleggio, who acts as a spin-doctor with his own firm, the initial stage of meet-up groups gave way to a more articulate subject, widely diffused thru Italy and more effective when it comes to politics. Between 2009 and 2012 the M5S evolved, gaining more and more consensus and winning seats at a number of local elections. Basically they are against traditional parties and refuse to be addressed as one; there is no common ideology, the main coordinates to understand them are ecology and distrust for the traditional pillars of power (banks, industry, lobbies, the Holy See, the EU). As of 2013 they become the main actor in the national politics.

Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo

The shadows inside M5S.

M5S lacks the basic structures of a party, there is almost no hierarchy at all. The main idea is that the instruments available thru the Web are more than enough to coordinate their efforts and to act as a platform to discuss the various matters that comes to attention. The  weight of Mr. Grillo is far more heavy than usual for a party chief and the role of Mr. Casaleggio, especially when it comes to decide some strategy, is not that clear ti the public. So we got a number of issues about internal democracy of M5S, due to people who’s been expelled from the ranks without any real choice to discuss with the founder (Mr. Grillo) or to appeal for their reasons with all the others. Rules of the house are not that clear too, often some member of the movement will find him/herself under the fire without warning. Another dark cloud comes into view when you approach some of the members of M5S in the social network arena; sometimes they plainly refuse to debate or argument the issues in a way that recalls the attitude of a religious group. It’s not clear how they use money too but it’s to be reminded that they use no public money at all (M5S is against all public measures to finance political parties).

Roberto Casaleggio

Roberto Casaleggio

Aftermath of general elections in 2013.

Without an absolute majority for any party or coalition in the Senate, the political weight of M5S is enormous. In the lower house there’s an absolute majority in the hands of “Partito Democratico” (PD) and its allies, a center-left coalition, that have the relative majority in the Senate. M5S is the most voted party in the lower house (see note below) so it’s quite clear that an alliance between PD and M5S will give a strong majority for the new government. The problem is in the attitude of M5S; they build up their consensus on the base of being different from any other party and more than often Mr. Grillo is quite dashing about the leader of Pd, Mr. Pierluigi Bersani. The role of Mr. Grillo is very peculiar; he’s not been elected, he got no official mandate to conduct any political give-and-take, he already stated in the previous months that he doesn’t want any public appointment at all. So, who’s in charge? A couple of weeks from now we will have the new Parliament in charge, every group got to name its speakers, presidents of Senate and the Lower House have to be elected and every party will have private talks with the president of the Republic, Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, about the perspectives of the next government. This two weeks are all the time that’s left to M5S to decide about the future and to every other party to understand if they want to try to build up another alliance for support the government to come.

My two eurocents about the future.

M5S and PD could gave birth to a short-term alliance, a year or so, in order to get some common goal and to put on the right path Italy for a while. That means political reforms, a new law about election rules, about a dozen of new laws and the keeping of run-of-the-mill matters.  In March is due the start of the new Parliament and between April and May the election of the new President of the Republic. There is no real alternative to this strange partnership, the whole concept of a big coalition between center-right and center-left is nothing short of a political suicide for the PD. Mr. Grillo will continue to brag about everything thru his blog and in the media, the financial advisors will learn to discriminate between his words and the actions of the government.

Note.

In Italy we have two different ballots to cast for national elections; any voter above 25 years of age could cast his/her vote for Senate and Lower House, under that age he/she can vote only for the Lower House. 

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Italian general elections 2013 – the results

At the end of a short and bitter political campaign we finally have the results of this election run. There are three different results to evaluate: votes for the “Camera dei Deputati” (House of Representatives of Lower House), votes for the Senate and finally votes for the regional assemblies of Lazio, Lombardia and Molise (that will be available today in the evening). The first two results give the picture of the next national government, the latter are important too giving the political and economical weight of Lazio and Lombardia.

Camera dei Deputati (House of Representatives or Lower House)

Center-Left coalition (PD, Sel, CD, Svp) 340 seats

Center-right coalition (PdL, LN, seven other parties) 124 seats

Mario Monti coalition (Sc, UdC, FLI) 45 seats

Movimento 5 Stelle 108

Result: absolute majority for the center-left coalition.

Senate

Center-Left coalition (PD, Sel, CD, Svp) 113 seats

Center-right coalition (PdL, LN, seven other parties) 116 seats

Mario Monti coalition (Sc, UdC, FLI) 18

Movimento 5 Stelle 54 seats

Result: no absolute majority (158 seats needed)

What will happen now?

The situation we got now is quite difficult to elaborate. In Italy any government we need a confermation vote in both houses and as you may see there is no coherent majority between Senate and House of Representatives. With this numbers it’s quite clear that it’s up to Pierluigi Bersani (leader of the center-left coalition) to form the new italian government from a minority position in Senate, that will be the first time ever in Italy. He will be appointed by italian president of the Republic,  Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, shortly after a formal round of sessions with all the political leaders. The first challenge for Mr. Bersani will be to win more votes at the Senate on a reform program; that could come both from the senators of “Movimento 5 Stelle” and from their collegues from “Mario Monti coalition”. It is important to note that this time we will have far more women that before in both houses, that could be an important factor for the social issues this goverment will have to face in the next few months.

Who win this round?

The  “Movimento 5 Stelle” party scores an impressive result, even more impressive for a party that got no real infrastrucure, a very light organization model and no political allies at all. This party will be the key factor at Senate and a very powerful influence in the parlamentary commissions. By popular consensus is the first party in Italy.

Who lose this round?

Mr. Silvio Berlusconi party, “Popolo delle Libertà” (PdL) lose millions of votes from the 2008 national elections, the same can be said for his allies “Lega Nord” (LN) that  lose about half of its consensus (from a bit more 8% to the actual value of 4%). It is to be considered that a few weeks ago polls gave far worser numbers for both parties. Now Mr. Berlusconi will try to negotiate for a short-term government.

Mr. Mario Monti, incumbent PM, lose his bet for a new political party. He needed about 15% of the general consensus to be incisive in the next legislature and fall short from the intended target. Very short. His allies has been crushed (UdC and FLI), leaving him alone in the field. If Mr. Bersani and Mr. Grillo reach any kind of agreement then he’s out from all power plays.

Mr. Antonio Ingroia, leader of “Rivoluzione Civile”, is screaming blue murder about his failure to get enough votes to enter the national assembly. He blames Mr. Bersani, blames his allies, blames the media and the whole world. This round certfies the political death of four minor parties and the end of the political career of their leaders. For Mr. Ingroia it’s high time to go back to his previous work.

Mr. Oscar Giannino, leader of “Fare per fermare il declino”, has been burned out by a scandal shortly before this round. Bad news for a brand new party like this one and huge consequencies for its electoral results. They are out for good, with about 1% of the votes. They will decide what to do in the next few days, starting for the need of a different leadership.

Who is left in the middle?

Center-left coalition is on a very peculiar position. They control the lower house, Mr. Bersani is the first candidate for leadership of a new government. At the same time they lose an irrepetible choice to win national elections, due to a number of mistakes done in tha last two months.  Mr. Bersani find a bitter end for a long and good political career, the party is shocked. 

La Lega di Maroni e il futuro

La cronaca politica di questi ultimi mesi ci ha consegnato, in mezzo a tanto caos scandalistico, anche le prime mosse della Lega Nord post Bossi, quella del rinnovamento dopo la tristissima stagione degli scandali. Dopo una fase interlocutoria, prevedibile dato il ruolo di padre-padrone di Umberto Bossi, si può dire che la transizione di potere all’interno del partito si sia conclusa dopo il congresso e che quella che vediamo ora sia la Lega Nord a gestione di Roberto Maroni.

Roberto Maroni

Roberto Maroni

Non si può dire che i vertici siano cambiati più di tanto, né che la tanto sbandierata pulizia abbia avuto un grande effetto. Alcune figure ormai bruciate dai media e dalle inchieste sono state rimosse (il tesoriere Francesco Belsito, la senatrice Rosa Angela Mauro e simili) ma molti dei quadri leghisti inseriti d’autorità negli anni da Bossi sono ancora al loro posto e si vede.  L’impressione che se ne ricava al momento attuale è di un partito alla ricerca di un’identità e di un modo per riaffermarsi sulla scena nazionale, il tutto con la serissima paura di ritornare a tempi più grami dove fuori dal cortile del Nord Italia non se li filava nessuno.

In termini di peso politico il parallelo storico tra il PSI di Bettino Craxi e la Lega Nord di Bossi (in relazione i primi alla DC e i secondi al PdL) è evidente; la loro capacità di condizionare da alleati il comportamento del partito di maggioranza relativa e lo squilibrio tra l’effettiva quantità di consenso rispetto alle cariche ricoperte era ed è sotto gli occhi di tutti. Anche nella fase del tramonto dei rispettivi leader i paralleli sono notevoli. Craxi cancellato da Tangentopoli, Bossi messo in un angolo da una serie di personaggi discutibili e dalle proprie scelte sbagliate.

Quello che Maroni vuole disperatamente evitare è la seconda parte del tramonto del partito. Lo scenario attuale, così come indicato dai sondaggi, fa tornare la Lega Nord ai consensi di parecchi anni fa e mette una base di argilla sotto i feudi regionali conquistati nel momento d’oro (Piemonte, Veneto). Diventare il segretario quando i consensi crollano non era certo l’eredità che sognava l’ex ministro dell’Interno.  Da qui una facile chiave di lettura per i proclami degli ultimi mesi, dalla disobbedienza fiscale a confusi richiami ai temi leghisti della prima ora, per arrivare ai tira-e-molla con la giunta Formigoni in Lombardia.

Luca Zaia

Luca Zaia

Il fatto principale è che l’edificio leghista non è esattamente solido. Il movimento deriva dall’unione di più leghe territoriali (le principali in Veneto, Lombardia e Piemonte), leghe che tuttora esistono e che “pesano” negli equilibri interni. Flavio Tosi, il sindaco di Verona, regge il movimento veneto insieme all’attuale governatore Luca Zaia e sembra in grado di poter far vacillare la leadership di Maroni in ogni momento. Più complessa la situazione piemontese, dove il governatore in carica Roberto Cota potrebbe essere travolto dai gravi problemi debitori che rischiano di mettere in default la regione.

Le prossime scadenze elettorali, sia nazionali che regionali (in Lombardia), misureranno se e come la Lega Nord possa ancora dire la sua sulla scena politica. Il consenso legato al voto di protesta sta prendendo altre direzioni, per la maggior parte verso il Movimento 5 Stelle, e l’aumento del numero dei non votanti va a penalizzare i movimenti / partiti di indirizzo populista. E’ ipotizzabile che una base di consensi rimanga salda ma di fronte a un crollo palese che renderebbe la Lega Nord marginale a livello nazionale non è azzardato supporre che si possa verificare una scissione.

Roberto Cota

Roberto Cota

Va anche valutato come l’elettorato leghista si rifletta nella classe dirigente. Il crollo del “cerchio magico” di Bossi ha reso meno rilevante parte delle figure di maggior prestigio (gli ex ministri Roberto Calderoli e Roberto Castelli, tanto per fare un esempio)  e che il vero nerbo del partito, i tanti amministratori locali, sembrano essere disorientati dagli sviluppi degli ultimi mesi, al punto da prendere iniziative francamente poco adeguate alla carica che finiscono per rimbalzare sui media nazionali a tutto discapito del movimento leghista.  La crisi economica si è fatta sentire pesantemente anche nelle zone più sviluppate, non è più possibile sventolare le bandiere del federalismo e delle autonomie locali quando non si sa come far quadrare i conti. L’unico spazio di azione possibile per Maroni e soci è proprio quello di promuovere ad ogni livello misure di sostegno all’occupazione, non dimenticando di “spingere” per rimuovere i vincoli di bilancio per la spesa degli enti locali che ne abbiano disponibilità (violando o derogando dal patto di stabilità). Il danno degli scandali e il diverso momento politico tuttavia ridurranno ai minimi termini il partito in Emilia Romagna, Toscana e Marche; anche i progressi fatti in Liguria e in Friuli Venezia Giulia possono essere considerati a rischio.

In definitiva tra fine 2012 e metà 2013 si deciderà il destino di questo partito, dato lo scenario attuale è probabile che venga balcanizzato in leghe più piccole su base regionale, cosa ancora più probabile se il Piemonte dovesse dichiarare default sotto la gestione leghista.