Matteo Renzi, heads and tails of a personalist leader Análisis FAES

05/12/2016

Matteo Renzi, who had pledged to leave his position as President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic in the event of losing the referendum about the constitutional reform promoted by his Government, has kept his word. Shortly before making the final results of the referendum public, Renzi has faced the media to admit the defeat, to accept before the public eye that the victory for the no' side has been extraordinary and to announce that he will tender his resignation before the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, today.

 

In the event of the acceptance of his resignation by the President of the Republic, and it looks like the large victory for the no' side shows that is highly likely that this is how it will be, the former mayor of Florence will end his career as Prime Minister. And he will do it when he loses a referendum that, paradoxically, was designed by himself as an instrument to underpin his authority. In this case, a parallel can be drawn with that of David Cameron. Just like the British premier, Matteo Renzi has been seduced by the siren voices of the plebiscitary politics. And, similarly to what has happened with the British premier, Renzi has finally been overcome by a populist logic that he has not been able to tame.

 

Renzi can be accused, and not unjustifiably, of putting in competion a personalist style, which has ended fostering that which he wanted to neutralize: the strength of populism. There is no doubt that, today, two years after the accession to power of Matteo Renzi, both the Five Star Movement and the "lepenized" Lega Nord have more strength and better electoral perspectives that when Renzi arrived in the Palazzo Chigi. It is a phenomenon that the political science will have to study. Note that the design of the electoral law promoted by the Renzi Government, who anticipates a premium of majority of 55% for the formation that exceeds 40%, would not favour the PD nowadays, but the party founded by Beppe Grillo. A fact that also allows for reflection about the traps that preys on the institutional engineering designed for party-political purposes.

 

However, and despite the foregoing, the resignation of Matteo Renzi is away from being an improvement for the European reformism. In spite of his flirtation with personalism and its populist vagaries, Renzi had put on the line a significant reformist agenda that could have greatly benefit Italy. Loyal to his inspiration in the third way, the tenure of Renzi in government could have powerfully contributed to the consolidation of a model of a modern left in the South of Europe. That said, with the defeat of Renzi the Italian Social Democracy wastes again the chance to get on board the train of modernity. In the same way that the Mediterranean left loses one of its most important landmarks, and is left orphaned of a progressive leadership with liberal spirit, able to negotiate and build bridges with the center-right, just as he has sufficiently demonstrate during his government. And this is not good news, for either Italians or Europeans.

Translated by Clara Ayuso

Matteo Renzi, heads and tails of a personalist leader