Will The Democratic Split Knock The Government Off-Balance?

On the day of the new government’s oath-taking, Renzi announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party.

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Matteo Renzi a Bologna 2016” by Francesco Pierantoni is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Unity is not the Italian progressives’ strength

When Matteo Salvini announced the government crisis in August, nobody was expecting such a radical and deep political upheaval. It is interesting to observe that, since that fateful day when Salvini declared the crisis, everything has changed. In fact, while the Five Star Movement and the League previously made up the majority in Parliament, now there is a red-yellow majority where the Democrats and the Five Star Movement make up the majority in Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet.

This situation is, in itself, ground-breaking since two parties that were calling each other names for years are now sitting together at the Council of Ministers. That’s politics, babe.

It is worth highlighting, though, that two political forces — so different and divided by ideas, origins and reference class — are now joining efforts only to prevent the rise of that “guy acting as a dictator.”  But that’s another story.

The most outstanding detail is that the red-yellow ‘miracle’ carries only one name: Matteo Renzi. He is the hero of the story who allowed the new government by extending the Democrats’ hand to the Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, although many people in the party, starting with the secretary Nicola Zingaretti, opposed this solution. But Renzi’s voice in the Democratic Party was too loud not to be heard, and Conte could soon announce his new government. For weeks, the negotiation with the Five Star Movement saw the Democrats as close as they ever had, restricting their inner disagreement only to Carlo Calenda and Matteo Richetti, who are both forging a new political topic.

Turning the ship around: Renzi’s new creature

Renzi found an astonishing way to celebrate a rediscovered unity: on the day of the new government’s oath-taking, he announced that he was leaving the Democratic Party, in order to create another party with many members of Parliament: Italia Viva (Alive Italy).

It looks like the theater of the absurd: since the 2018 elections, Mr. Renzi had been the Five Star’s sworn enemy, opposing any negotiations with them. Then, after Salvini initiated the crisis, he turned the ship around and started negotiations with the Five Stars, drawing away a reluctant Zingaretti. All together, only to leave them shortly after Conte’s new administration took up office.

According to the declarations,Renzi did not want a party always looking for unity among the many inner schools of thought but a U.S.–style party that identifies itself with a charismatic leader,” namely Mr. Renzi himself.

It is not a secret that Mr. Renzi is a liberal-minded leader, as he proved himself a strong fan of those ideas during his tenure as Prime Minister. Although the programs and electoral manifestos are still unclear, the founder openly declared his support for the new government, undermining its stability. In fact, although it is possible that Alive Italy will gather more members of Parliament, it is self-evident that the ‘fourth chair’ — alongside with those of the Democrats, the Five Star Movement and the Free and Equal coalition supporting the cabinet — should undercut the government’s stability. More parties among the same majority would consequentially increase potential disagreements.

In addition, the birth of Renzi’s creature, as one may call this collaboration of parties, represents at least 4% of the population’s preferences, according to surveys. Many of these come from Democrat electors, but it should not be underestimated the fact that the ‘Renxit’ would bring Five Star voters to the Democrats. In fact, Renzi’s departure makes the Democratic party a good pick for those who do not like the former Prime Minister.

Lastly, analyzing Italians’ voting intentions, we may draw a remarkable conclusion. Following the national red-yellow coalition, which is going to be set up again for the regional elections later this year in Umbria, it is clear that a curious bipolarism is coming back. On the one hand, we find the ruling majority (Democrats, 5 Stars Movement, Free and Equal, Alive Italy) reaching 46% support, while the opposition (The League, Brothers of Itay and Forza Italia) 47%. But this kind of bipolarism is not as good as it may seem, owing to the instability of the coalitions and the opportunism of many parties.

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