Opinions - 22.02.2013 - 00:00 

Italy in the run-up to the elections

On 24 February 2013, Italy’s citizens will once again be electing their government. Their mistrust in the political institutions is deep. And Italian society is more split than ever, writes HSG Professor Renato Martinoni.
Source: HSG Newsroom


22 February 2013. It is not easy to understand Italy, not least because, for historical reasons, there are many “Italies”. In comparison with other European countries, localism is highly pronounced: Italians are only really at home in their own cities. This also explains why it is so difficult for Italian citizens to identify with a nation that is centrally organised and does not take into consideration the different requirements and the diversity of its citizens. This distance widens the chasm between citizens and institutions. A lack of shared values has resulted in a fundamental rift within Italian society.

Italy – a country without a common denominator
There was the time of fascism and antifascism. There was the power struggle between the Christian Democrats and the Communists. There was left-wing terrorism and right-wing terrorism. There was Berlusconi’s Italy and there was an Italy against Berlusconi. There is no distinctive national awareness as yet. This came across very clearly on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of unity in 2011. The secessionist party Lega Nord tried everything to undermine the feeling of unity. Those who still celebrated Italian unity again limited themselves to the myth of the Risorgimento and the founding fathers without taking the present situation into account.

This mistrust also applies to politics: Italian society has been putting an increasing distance between itself and the political “caste”. No wonder, then, that anti-political movements are on the up and up. Surveys conducted among the general public confirm this.

Trust in the carabinieri
The Italians do not trust their political representatives. Rather, they place their trust in security symbols such as the police and the carabinieri, but primarily in the President of the Republic. In 2011, Giorgio Napolitani replaced Berlusconi with Mario Monti – and thus replaced a raft of policies that could not be taken seriously with serious policies. In spite of the economic crisis, Italy’s citizens were called upon to make more sacrifices.

Now Italy must make a decision. Once again, citizens are facing elections, and Italy’s political landscape has become more divided than ever. The media mirror the chasm: Italy’s TV channels present politics as a risible spectacle. The Pope’s resignation alone stole the show from the disgraceful sight of the political circus.

And the political parties? Those who call themselves “democrats” today emerged from the old Communist Party. The coalition surrounding Monti (which includes post-fascists) links the ideals of the international world of finance with those of the old Democrazia cristiana. Berlusconi’s alliances are a mixture of populism, regional autonomy movements, opportunism and personal interest. Everyone wants to have a finger in the pie. Even at the Sanremo Music Festival, politics was talked about in the form of satirical contributions.

Political asylum in the Ticino
Nostalgists and idealists will vote for the left, pragmatists for Monti, dreamers and opportunists for Berlusconi, and anarchists for anti-politics. On 24 February 2013, the fate of the Third Republic will be sealed. A citizen from Lombardy has already applied for political asylum in a municipality in the Canton of Ticino in case Berlusconi should win again.

Thereupon, reality will have to be faced. And this will be painful. The Italians are aware of this now. They do not want the best, because that is not an option, but they want the least of all evils. Yet there is still some comfort in this: there is the Italy of the politicians and the other Italy, that of the Italians. Thanks to this reality, the country exists and will continue to survive. Let us hope that the Italians will not wake up to the victory of those who promise dreams. After all, it may take only a few years for those dreams to turn into nightmares.

Photo: Photocase / Kuchenspinne