On 4 December 2016, a large majority of Italian voters turned down the most comprehensive and cohesive attempt to revise significant parts of the Constitution since 1948, namely, to overcome the country’s symmetrical bicameralism, to establish new state-region relations, and to streamline institutions, in part by abolishing the provinces and the National Council for Economics and Labor. This chapter offers an outline of the reform, which had been boldly approved by Parliament, and places it within its political and institutional context. It identifies the changes that the reform was set to introduce, attempts to assess the effects it would have had if it had been passed in the referendum, and considers some of the consequences of its rejection.
Yet Another Failed Attempt to Reform the Italian Constitution
The Center-Right’s Search for a Leader: Crisis and Radicalization
This chapter deals with the political crisis of the Italian center-right that started with the fall of the Berlusconi IV government and the 2013 general elections. In 2015, the struggle for leadership of the center-right took place between Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, resulting in the reversal of the balance of power between Forza Italia and the Lega Nord. Based on election results and some electoral surveys, Lega Nord seems to have become the third party at the national level and, through a process of radicalization, also the party of the new Italian right. From an organizational point of view, Salvini’s leadership can be defined as a personalized and postmodern media leadership. The systemic risks of this scenario are the absence of a center-right party that can compete with the Partito Democratico led by Matteo Renzi, the growing fragmentation of the center-right, and the conflict between moderate and radical tendencies. All these factors challenge the return to an alternating democracy.
Chronology of Italian Political Events, 2015
Chronology of Italian Political Events, 2015
The Election of the President of the Republic in Unstable Times
Sergio Mattarella was elected the eleventh president of the Republic on 31 January 2015 for a seven-year term. His election after the fourth round of voting was a success for Matteo Renzi, the president of the Council of Ministers, who reunited his party, reinforced his government, and weakened his opponents. The new president was elected by 66 percent of the electoral college, a relatively large majority, comprising principally the left but also a small part of the moderate right. That majority might also be seen as a centrist establishment vote in a still polarized party and political system. This perspective suggests that in addition to the president’s institutional significance, which may be sharply reduced in the near future due to major constitutional reforms, his importance as a national figure and socialization agent should also be considered. The president’s ability to represent and enhance social cohesion may be particularly important in a more majoritarian political system.
Expo 2015: An Opportunity to Relaunch Italy against the Background of Local and Global Challenges
Expo 2015 represented a major challenge for Milan and Italy. Built around the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” it combined local and global traditions, innovation, and technology, while establishing diplomatic and trade relations with many countries from around the world. The conclusion of a long process that had lasted about nine years, Expo 2015 was marked by difficulties in its governance and by delays in the implementation of its projects and works. After a brief review of this process, the chapter focuses on the events of 2015, the final race for the completion of works, and the event itself. It then discusses the theme that was chosen, including its representation by the various pavilions set up by the 158 participating countries. The final section discusses the outcome of Expo 2015 in terms of its legacy—the Milan Charter—and the economic opportunity for future development that the site presents.
Governing under Constraint
Maurizio Carbone and Simona Piattoni
In 2015, Matteo Renzi’s government continued to elicit contrasting reactions while dealing with both internal and external constraints. Some say it passed crucial reforms for economic development in fields such as the labor market, the banking system, education, and public administration, in addition to passing a new electoral law. However, others criticize the substance and, even more, the way reforms were passed by constructing variable parliamentary majorities according to the vote at hand, thus avoiding the need to build consensual decision-making relationships with interest groups and further centralizing power in the office of the prime minister. Be that as it may, the government was able to impose its own agenda in domestic affairs. Although the success of the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan helped to bolster the image of the country, Italy continued to play a marginal role in key international areas, such as migration, European austerity policies, and the fight against terrorism.
Italy’s Foreign Policy Game: Moving without the Ball
Vittorio Emanuele Parsi
In 2015, Italy’s foreign policy was focused on issues that were linked to the attempt to boost Italy’s international reputation: the Libyan question, the migration crisis, and Italy’s role in the European Union. As for the first two issues, the Renzi government has sought to “Europeanize” them, with the aim of not being “left alone” in dealing with their consequences. The third issue concerns Renzi’s effort to gain fiscal flexibility and “change the course” of the European Union. However, in Europe the prime minister has found himself isolated and has struggled to lead coalitions on issues that are very relevant for the national interest. The assessment of the Renzi government’s action in foreign policy in 2015, ultimately, can be read in two ways: if it is evaluated against announcements, expectations, and demands of the prime minister, the result is disappointing; if it is measured in a more realistic fashion, the appraisal can be less harsh.