A conversation with Franco Frattini Johns Hopkins University – Washington DC
In the most recent Italian elections, 50% of Italians opted for a “protest vote”: 25% voted for the new Movimento 5 Stelle – lead by Beppe Grillo – and another 25% abstained from voting. The remaining 50% of the Italian population allocated its vote across a spectrum of political parties (with the majority of the votes going to Partito Democratico & Partito Della Libertá). Despite what has been said, these results were not unpredictable.
In the run-up to the previous elections, parties made promises which they did not keep. Among them: – Reductions in public spending; – Reductions of privileges for local, regional, and national politicians; – Reductions in the number of members of the Parliament (House & Senate); – Reform of the party finance system through abolishing public funding.
These un-kept promises, together with the lack of an anti-corruption law and several scandals which havehit the political class at every level, were the primary reasons behind the electoral results. Monti’s government was forced to introduce strong austerity measures – i.e. high taxes, reform of the pension system – which had deep impact on families, as well as both small & big businesses. However, thanks to these reforms, Italy will achieve – at the end of 2013 – a zero structural deficit, without any additional measures or sacrifice needed. Given this situation, 50% of the Italian population decided either to opt for a protest vote or not to vote at all. People who voted for the Movimento Cinque Stelle represent a wide range of population: from graduate students to professionals, from owners of small business to ordinary workers who are furious about the political and economic conditions of Italy.
What should Italian politicians do now? Both ex Prime Minister Monti and President Napolitano have reassured EU leaders that Italian politicians will be able to find a solution to the current situation. However, the idea of a coalition that would bring the PD & PDL together is unacceptable and would be counterproductive for both citizens and the respective blocs. The first attempt to solve the situation should be initiated by Mr. Bersani – whose coalition got the majority in the House. He should prepare a program – to be submitted for approval to all political parties – to stimulate both the Italian economy and its political system. Among the most pressing reforms to be implemented are:
1. Reforming the electoral system according to the French model – with two rounds of voting and an opportunity for citizens to choose their President;
2. Keeping promises made in the past;
3. Drafting an anti-corruption law which will hit the political system at a structural and horizontal level;
4. Implementing the reforms of the Monti government;
5. Enacting new policies to stimulate employment and create job opportunities;
6. Cutting bureaucracy;
7. Abandoning the idea of a referendum on the EU, which will bring the European Union to the point of collapse. Meanwhile, negotiating with the EU to find a compromise between austerity measures and the need for public growth.
Finally and most important, acting toward the higher purpose of keeping Italian economics and politics under control.