“Ahh Italians!” This is the most common comment that I get when I talk about the European election in Italy with friends and colleagues.
But what do they actually mean by stressing this plural noun, “Italians”?
It seems almost that all the Italian national political habits and stereotypes can be summed up in one word; at least this is the common feeling here in Brussels.
In that “Ahh Italians” there are all the things people in Europe expect to be typical features of Italian politics: opaqueness, confusion, easy shifting alliances, unreliability, and instablity. People take them as normal, as a matter of fact. Therefore…”ahh Italians”!
Is it really like that? Is Italian politics so difficult to understand for non-nationals? Well, we must confess that sometimes it is even difficult for us Italians!
Nevertheless the forthcoming election might change something in the way Italian politics is perceived in Europe…as far as confusion and instability are concerned. In fact, when it comes to the candidates of the different parties the issue has been used, in Italy and in Europe, to add a different stereotype to that “ahh Italians”. I want to leave this issue out my post because I think it is not correct to deliver judgments a priori.
Let’s instead focus on confusion and instability. Since the last political election in 2008 the Italian political spectrum has achieved a sort of bi-polar maturity with the consolidation of both a center-right and a center-left party: Il popolo della Liberta’ (PdL) led by Berlusconi, and il Partito Democratico (PD) led now by Dario Franceschini after Walter Veltroni’s resignation.
Just three other major parties gained seats in the Italian Parliament: Lega Nord, Italia dei Valori, and Unione di Centro. The left wing (communists and greens) went through a historical defeat without gaining any seat in the two branches of the Parliament.
This situation is likely to be reiterated in the next European election. According to polls Berlusconi and his party (PdL) should take more than 40% of votes and the PD around 30%. The rest will be distributed amongst the other parties which have also gained seats during the last political election. The polls foresee another exclusion of the left wing which should not be able to pass the 4% threshold provided by the new electoral law. However, prevision can also be denied and the left wing could have some more chances to reach the threshold in a situation where the turnout is consider being really low.
Moreover the PdL is likely to become the first or the second most representative party in the EP, and Berlusconi is working hard to win the EP Presidency for Mario Mauro, current MEP. On the other hand the new PD representation in the PES will be joined by former ALDE Italian MEPs as result of what happened at national level with the creation of the PD itself. Thus the Italian representation in the EP center-left wing will grow too (voices in the PES suggested even a change of the party’s name to welcome the former ALDE representation).
The conclusion is that the Italian representation in the EP as whole will be distributed more between the two biggest European parties. This distribution reflects a national one.
Hopefully now the situation is less confusing for everybody.