Opinions - 26.07.2013 - 00:00 

“Ghost government” in Italy

Enrico Letta has been in office for 100 days. Is it possible to take stock after such a brief period of time? Certainly, thinks Renato Martinoni. After all, there was a danger that the political mandate would only last a few weeks.


29 July 2013. The instability of governments is one of the characteristic traits of Italian politics. In reality, people not only fail to understand Italian politics, but media coverage additionally creates more confusion than clarity. Letta is 47 years old and a member of the Partito Democratico: a political force which about 20 years ago was Western Europe’s most important communist party and later paved the way for social democracy.

A new coalition
The essential novelty after 20 years of contradiction was the coalition of the post-communists with Berlusconi’s party. You could almost call it a “government of national unity”. This is put into perspective by the fact that half the Italians did not go to the polling booth. And the other half has divided itself between those who support the government parties and those who champion protest parties such as the Movimento 5 Stelle.

The first step taken by the head of government was to convene the ministers in a Tuscan abbey: to discuss matters far away from Rome and to find a common working basis. In the name of “promotion of growth”, objectives were fixed for the first 100 days: creating jobs through (fiscal) incentives for firms – creating employment for young people and over-50s who were out of work. And conducting reforms.

No money for pasta and holidays
Nonetheless, Italy’s condition is dramatic at present: particularly in the south, especially for young people. Eight out of a hundred Italians live in poverty, and a quarter of the population are in an uncomfortable economic situation. Costs are even being cut at one of the Italians’ holy of holies, the dining table: in the last three years, pasta consumption has decreased by ten per cent.

The Chairman of the Industrial Federation warned: “We are on the brink of an economic abyss which could throw us back fifty years”. The economic crisis is not exactly alleviated by a tax authority which hampers the emergence of new initiatives, and by the drama of many companies which go bankrupt because the state does not settle its debt with them.

There is a fear of uprisings and social unrest. Added to this, there is the precarious situation caused by the influx of refugees. Every day, hundreds and sometimes thousands of refugees arrive at Italy’s coasts, which are more than 7,000 kilometres long – particularly on the island of Lampedusa, which is only 70 kilometres away from Africa. Not all of them succeed: according to some calculations, 25,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the last 20 years.

Politics and justice
Because of these problems (Italy’s government debt is just behind that of Greece), Italy’s politics should help Letta to implement his “growth programme”. But the parties of anti-politics are content to indulge in anti-politics. The government parties are occupied by internal problems. The Partito Democratico is working hard on its modernisation. The Popolo delle Libertà depends completely on Berlusconi.

In the regional and communal elections conducted between May and June, the collapse of the Berlusconians, of the Lega Nord and anti-politics was accompanied by a victory of the centre-right. Experience has shown in the last few years that it is impossible to make a projection. Meanwhile, there is a great deal of tension vis-à-vis a “communist” judicature, which – as the Berlusconians say – has been organised to attack innocent Berlusconi, who in turn is thinking about re-founding his earlier party, Forza Italia. This is why the Berlusconian ministers of Letta’s government have joined the protests in the street.

A “ghost government”
One may wonder whether this is not a further indication of the Italian government’s weakness. Basically, it is the processes in which Berlusconi is involved that make the alliance between his ministers and those in Letta’s party fragile.

In an interview with a German newspaper, the comedian Beppe Grillo called the present Italian government a “ghost government”. But the racist Vice-President of the Senate, a member of Lega Nord who compared the Congo-born Minister for Integration, Cécile Kyenge, to an orang-utan, is certainly no “ghost”.

Many demanded his resignation, but the gentleman is still occupying his post. Is there only bad news from Enrico Letta? No. The media say that readiness to help others is on the increase: one in ten Italians does voluntary work. At least outside politics, in civil society, there is still good news from Italy.

Photo: Photocase / misterQM

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