The Italian silence.
A mystery thriller?
Politics. It is about the absence of news in a country that has had 66 governments since the end of World War II, at an average of 1.14 years per government. It is currently enjoying an unusual period of political stability.
So there is nothing to tell?
This story is about the why and the future.
Start with the Why.
It is mainly up to Mario Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief. Since he was appointed prime minister in February 2021, the political scene has calmed down. He has managed to get backing from both the left and the right political spectrums and is a popular figure among the electorate. And he's popular among the voters.
Tell me about the political system.
The political landscape in Italy has been in motion for decades. Scandal investigations in the 1990s affected thousands of politicians, administrators and business people. And the shift from a proportional to a so-called Additional Member System with the requirement to obtain a minimum of 4 per cent of the national vote to obtain representation also altered the political landscape. The Christian Democratic party dissolved; the Italian People's Party and the Christian Democratic Center emerged. Other major parties, such as the Socialists, saw support plummet. A new liberal movement, Forza Italia, gained broad support among moderate voters. The National Alliance broke from the (alleged neo-fascist) Italian Social Movement (MSI).
Is there a trend?
Since the 1990s, there has been a trend toward two large coalitions (one on the centre-left and the other on the centre-right). But the thing with the current Draghi government is that it is a coalition of both wings. The populist 5-Star Movement and the right-wing League are part of the current government. To understand how complex and complicated government formation and government in Italy is, let's look at the current cabinet. There are 25 ministers, 15 are from the parties that back the coalition in the parliament, and ten don’t belong to a party. The party with the largest representation is the formerly anti-establishment Five Star Movement with four ministers, while Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia party returned to the government for the first time since 2012 with three. The centre-left Democratic party and Matteo Salvini's right-wing League has three ministers each, with the remaining for the former prime minister Matteo Renzi's centrist Italia Viva and the leftwing Free and Equal Party. By the way: Out of the total, 17 are male, and eight are female.
Enough names and numbers. Tell me about the future.
The next Italian general election is due to be held in Italy no later than June 2023. In advance, there will be fierce political competition. As a result of the 2020 Italian constitutional referendum, the number of members will be reduced. There will be 400 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 200 elected members of the Senate of the Republic, down from 630 and 315, respectively. Before the general election, the presidential election will be held in January 2022. The President of the Republic will be elected by the Italian Parliament and the regional representatives. Incumbent president, Sergio Mattarella, is eligible for another term but has declined to run again. Draghi's name often comes up as a potential candidate to replace Mattarella. If Draghi became president, however, it would leave a major gap at the executive power level. It seems possible that if Draghi leaves, the government will collapse, and Italy will have to go to general elections.
The populist parties, in particular, suffer from their participation in government. That gives space to new political movements, above all, the Brothers of Italy, with the far-right leader Georgia Meloni. She is about to overtake Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League as the most popular party in opinion polls. Meloni's success raises the prospect that the next election will produce the most right-wing government in Italy's postwar history. In any case, Meloni has made no secret of her ambitions. "I am not afraid, in the sense of being ready to do what the Italians are asking me to do," she told the TV station RAI some weeks ago. (If you want to learn more about the far-right Brothers of Italy, read this Guardian piece from Angela Giuffrida.)