Renzi for Letta

Read few comments.

Questions:

1. Is it another sing of the instability of the Italian politics or this time it is maybe different?

2. It is quite a quick rise for Matteo Renzi. Would you say that he is positioned to become a real long time player on political scene or not, and why?

Answers:

Mario Mignone, Director of the Center for Italian Studies, Stony Brook University

1. One problem with Italian politicians (unfortunately, with the majority of politicians) is the lack of transparency. Renzi declared many times that his objective was not to bring down Letta but to accelerate the time toward the vote for reforms, especially the electoral system. In reality, from the very beginning, he wanted to grab the power to lead the government, but he needed the time to reach the number of votes in Parliament. In the Italian Parliamentary Republic any citizen (in good standing) can become President of the Republic or Prime Minister provided s/he receives the “majority vote” in Parliament. Apparently he reached the magical number.

Renzi is young, ambitious, and anxious to make some radical changes. He has read the pulse of the majority of Italians and he is telling them that he is the man they need. Are youth and passion enough to change a political and social system that needs substantial changes? There are big risks in creating a leadership of (exclusively) new faces to make changes.

2. Is he going to have a lasting role in the Italian political system? It depends on what kind of deals he made to reach the majority in Parliament. His party, the Democratic Party, is fractured. He will be able to last if he has the ability to melt together several of the fragments from the Center Left and Center Right. Italians, especially young people, are frustrated and impatient and they are tired of waiting. As you know, today there is an emigration of young people (Brain drain) that is draining the country of precious energy; it is an hemorrhage!

Time is always the best judge.

John Agnew, Professor of Geography, Professor in UCLA’s Department of Italian, UCLA

1. I thought that Renzi would wait for the electoral reform before moving to replace Letta. Renzi is stuck with the same government and strange party coalition across left and right that limited what Letta could do on economic policy, electoral reform, and restructuring parliament (to weaken the Senate, for example). Perhaps he figured that Letta’s government was now moribund and couldn’t deliver the electoral reform without him in charge. But I think that he has “talked himself” into acting now for fear that arriving via elections as the new prime minister, his goal as recently as three weeks ago, might not happen given the resurgence in the polls of Berlusconi and his “new” Forza Italia party and  the continuing strength, if somewhat reduced, of the anti-party 5 Star Movement. I think Renzi is widely regarded in Italy as the “last hope.” Let’s hope not. Without quick electoral reform he may end up as a lame duck just like Letta.

2. He represents something like what Tony Blair was in Britain in the 1990s. Someone from a center-left party willing to push neoliberal policies that will please banks and bondholders. In this case, more importantly, he also would be someone pleasing to Chancellor Merkel and the ECB. The difficulty will be whether the current government can provide a vehicle for Renzi’s policy ambitions or, I think more likely, he will run up against all of the powerful vested interests in Italy who when they see Renzi think that they can harness him and through giving the appearance of change (as in relation to the restrictive practices of the Italian professions) everything can stay the same (to paraphrase Il Gattopardo, the great Sicilian novel). Without his own clear electoral base he has a serious credibility problem. Blair was luckier.

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