Italy remains the least governable and most unstable member of Nato, not to mention the UE. Despite being one of the original six Founding Members and one of the principal financial supporters of the UE, Italy does not carry the political weight one would expect of the EU’s second major manufacturing Power. A question of leaders and leadership?
Fourteen months ago, despite an electoral law hastily redesigned to encourage multi-party politics as opposed to the bi-party politics of the Berlusconi “era,” Italian voters, clearly sending a message to their leaders side-stepped the traditional parties and voted resoundingly for two up-starts known as the M5S and Lega parties. These two parties subsequently formed the first two-party coalition government in the history of the Republic. Known as the “Government for Change,” that government was put into sudden-death overtime by Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega on August 8, 2019.
After a little more than one year, Italians stand aghast as Italy’s leaders once again seem intent on playing “craps” with the lives of their fellow citizens. Naturally, for the good of all Italians, but most of all for the good of the Country’s numerous and highly paid bureaucrats and, of course, for the thousands of MPs and politicians required to represent a shrinking Italian electorate now down to about 50 million people.
No one on the right or left of the political spectrum can deny Italy needs “a better mouse trap”. In the age of real-time communications, smart phones, computers and broad-band internet connections, Italy needs a political machinery that is democratic, quick to decide and cost effective.
The present Constitution and Institutions do not seem to guarantee any of the above. What to do?
- Reduce the number of MPs. It makes little sense for Italians to pay for 1000 legislators when half would be more than enough to adequately represent Italy’s decreasing eligible voter population of some 50 million. An example? Italian Representatives represent 80,000 people each compared with 733,000 people each by their American counterparts. Italian Senators, which are less than half in number, represent 200,000 people each. However, in the US Senators represent the individual States and no comparisons are possible.
- Cut the outrageously high cost of Italian politics. Italian MPs earn more than € 190,000.00 per year. They are the highest paid politicians in Europe or the Americas. The cost of running Italy’s Quirinal Palace (where Pres. Mattarella and retinue live and work) is five times that of Buckingham Palace and twice that of the White House! For most Italians, politicians are not worth the money they get, especially in these times of diminishing returns. Something must be done to stop the gouging of taxpayers.
- Encourage the formation of a manageable two / three party system by rethinking voter districts, raising thresholds for winning seats in parliament and adopting a first-past the-post majority electoral system. The error is believing that more parties in Parliament equals more democracy. In the Italian case the proliferation of parties has brought nothing but confusion and hegemony often by parties representing but a majority only marginally superior to their own.
- Neutralize the Italian Magistrature’s bid for political power by constitutional amendment where possible and/or by making the Magistratura accessible to lawyers and Notaries in private practice; the present closed system does nobody any good; civil servants and bureaucrats become more responsive to the needs of society when challenged by competition from the private sector.
All systems are self-preserving and naturally Italian politicians believe the answer lies not in the above suggestions but in going even more proportional (in efforts to stop the “populist right” from spoiling their well-remunerated fun). For the good of Italy and to make sure it is “never again” for the likes of Salvini.
Come Tuesday, August 27, should Mattarella not send everybody to the polls sometime this fall, Italians risk falling back into the hands of the old cold-war leadership that nearly bankrupted the Country. If that were allowed to happen, self-determination could become the North’s only option. Caveat emptor!