Ecco l’Italicum


Jorge del Palacio Martín. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos

'Ecco l'Italicum'. With this expression, Matteo Renzi presented last week to the public the new draft for the electoral reform to be discussed in the Palazzo Montecitorio, seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. Following the tradition of using Latin expressions to name the electoral laws–'Matarellum' (1993) and 'Porcellum'(2005)–the new law has been dubbed Italicum. According to the young secretary of the Partito Democratico, the name reflects the regenerative spirit that inspired the law: 'farà nascere one Nuova Repubblica' Renzi stated.

The new electoral law was born with the aim of promoting broad majorities that facilitate the governance of the country and end the perfect bicameralism. At this point, technical issues will continue to fuel the debate on the reform in the coming days, since authorised voices–the political scientist Giovanni Sartori among others–have already shown serious reservations about the project. Beyond the technical issues, the fact that the duo who has promoted the new electoral law is not the same as the one who officially runs the country from its institutions–Enrico Letta (Partito Democratico) / Angelino Alfano (Nuovo Centrodestra)–but the one formed by Matteo Renzi (Partito Democratico) and Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia), none of whom hold parliamentary representation, deserves a political reading.

The agreement signed by Renzi and Berlusconi on Saturday at the headquarters of the Partito Democratico to promote the reform of the electoral law–the agreement also includes going over some titles of the Constitution–has been strongly criticised by Renzi's own party, accusing him of having revived Berlusconi in his darkest hours. Particularly so when Renzi himself had popularised the term 'Berlusconi: game over, partita finita.' As a result, dissent on the agreement with Berlusconi within the Partito Democratico has reached the point of causing the resignation of the party chairman, Gianni Cuperlo. A fact that not only highlights the fragility of the bond between the different ideological families grouped under the roof of the Partito Democratico, but also illustrates the existing gap between the party apparatus and Renzi. Meanwhile, Matteo Renzi justifies his policies by explaining he is meeting the program which he presented as a candidate for the General Secretariat of the Partito Democratico: accelerate the reforms that Italy needs for its governance.

Indeed, if Renzi manages to carry out Italicum and this becomes an instrument to facilitate the governance and stability of the country, we may speak of a success for Italian politics. And, of course, for the Secretary of the Partito Democratico. However, it will be a success that should be taken cautiously and managed prudently for two reasons. In the first place, locating the engine of Italian politics in an extra-parliamentary seat can go against the same policy it seeks to revitalise. In the second place, the success of Renzi's strategy to unblock the reform of the Italian electoral system could end up, paradoxically, giving new credit to Berlusconi and weakening the Partito Democratico itself. And that would not be good news for anyone but Il cavaliere. Especially now that the Italian political system has the opportunity of strengthening itself around two government options–Partito Democratico and Nuovo Centrodestra–whose leading role could damage the populist alternatives embodied by Berlusconi and Grillo.