Chronology of Italian Political Events, 2016
Giulia Maria Cavaletto
In May 2016, the Italian Parliament passed Law No. 76/2016 titled “Regulations of Civil Unions between Persons of the Same Sex and Discipline of Cohabitation.” The law provides for same-sex marriages and also introduces rights and protections to unmarried cohabitants. It followed on from a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which in July 2015 condemned Italy for its legislative gap with respect to homosexual unions. Civil unions have since become a new public institution that regulates the rights and obligations of all couples living together without marriage, whether homosexual or any other type of couple. The legislation contains some gray areas: it excludes the possibility of stepchild adoption by homosexual couples and does not allow the adoption of children by unmarried heterosexual couples. Nonetheless, the civil union represents a key step toward the achievement of equality by recognizing new ways of being a family.
The Never-Ending Crisis in the Capital
The first female mayor in Rome’s history, Virginia Raggi, is faced with a dual challenge. First, she must try to solve the chronic problems of a city mired in debt and struggling with an ongoing emergency caused by chronic traffic problems and chaotic waste disposal. Then the young mayor must experiment with new ways of exercising power to establish the transparency required to restore the reputation of a political class that has led Rome to become known as the “Mafia Capital,” with its own “in-between world” made up of corrupt politicians, business people, and criminals. Since assuming office, Raggi has faced a political impasse, and her administration has suffered an embarrassing string of resignations and judicial scandals that have brought into question the city’s future prospects. Rome is now at a crossroads that may lead to either a much-awaited renaissance or a definitive meltdown.
The Great Reform That Never Was
Alessandro Chiaramonte and Alex Wilson
In Italy, 2016 was meant to be the year of the “great reform,” a constitutional revision that would have concluded the never-ending transition from “First” to “Second” Republic, a long process involving several transformations in the electoral system and party system since the 1990s. It did not turn out this way. Instead, the Renzi-Boschi law for constitutional revision, which started its parliamentary procedure in April 2014 and saw its final reading in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2016, was eventually rejected by voters in a confirmative referendum held on 4 December.
Evolving Relations with Egypt and Libya
Elisabetta Brighi and Marta Musso
The Mediterranean and the Middle East have long constituted an important “circle” in Italy’s foreign policy, with Egypt and Libya playing a particularly important role. During 2016, two sources of tension emerged in Italy’s relations with these countries. The first reflects a wider European situation. Like the rest of the EU, Italy has followed strategic interests—on migration, energy, and security—that sometimes conflict with the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, which the EU claims to promote in its external relations. The Regeni affair, involving a murdered Italian graduate student, exemplified this tension. The second source results from the role of corporate interests in Italy, especially those of oil and energy companies, in relation to the country’s “national interests.” Italian foreign policy toward both Libya and Egypt seems to have been driven by a combination of somewhat overlapping but also divergent national and corporate interests.
Between Stasis and New Opportunities
Under Matteo Salvini’s leadership, the Northern League has sought to move away from its status of regionalist party to become a truly national (even nationalist) party, following the example of the National Front in France. For the new leader, the issues of federalism and devolution seem to play a less relevant role than opposition to the European Union and, more generally, to the so-called political establishment. This chapter shows that 2016 has been a transition year for the party. After two years of significant electoral expansion, the 2016 local elections seemed to mark a moment of stagnation. Salvini’s popularity ceased to grow and even started to decline. This posed some challenges to his right-wing populist project. Yet the concluding section of the chapter highlights the new political opportunities arising from Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election and from Renzi’s constitutional referendum defeat at the end of 2016.
Vincenzo Emanuele and Nicola Maggini
The importance of the 2016 municipal elections in Italy was a consequence not only of the number and relevance of the cities involved, including Rome, Milan, Naples, and Turin, but also of their timing, occurring in the middle of the 2013–2018 electoral cycle. These elections were thus perceived as a mid-term test for the national government, acquiring a relevance that went beyond their specific local context. This chapter analyzes the electoral supply, voter turnout, electoral results, and vote shifts, focusing on a synchronic and diachronic comparison of the performance of the candidates and the parties. The evidence presented shows that despite winning the plurality of municipalities, the Democratic Party clearly paid the cost of ruling at the national level. The number of its mayors was halved, and it was defeated in Rome and Turin by the Five Star Movement, the true winner of these elections.
Organized Hypocrisy, Solidarity, and Mounting Protest
Tiziana Caponio and Teresa Cappiali
In 2016, migration issues in Italy became synonymous with the “refugee crisis.” Dramatic images of boat people, rescues, and the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean Sea have catalyzed public attention. Examining the Italian government’s responses, we argue that the “refugee crisis” is the result of an “organized hypocrisy” aimed at containing, rather than managing, the crisis and at gaining access to international protection. Structuring the immigrant reception system on the opposition between humanitarian and economic migrants, Italian policies struggle to offer adequate responses to current mixed flows. Furthermore, this system often has a negative impact on local communities, where we find diversified responses that range from solidarity to opposition and, more recently, the emergence of a “reception market.” Additionally, our analysis suggests that the dysfunctional nature of the Italian reception system, combined with alarmist attitudes promulgated by the media, amplifies discomfort and contributes to an increase in public hostility toward immigrants.