With the formation of Mario Draghi's government, expression of President Mattarella's determination, the political season that began with the 2018 elections comes to an end. It is perhaps worth wasting some time trying to reconstruct the political developments of the last three years , also to begin to understand what scenarios could open up.
The results of the 2018 elections (which survive in the current Parliament) responded to the "collapse of expectations" and the consequent spread of a generalized mistrust that permeated Italian society in that period which resulted in a 27% of abstentions and in the channeling of consensus towards the forces that offered above all the identification of symbolic scapegoats: "corrupt politicians" (for 32,7% who voted for M5S) or "dangerous immigrants" (for 17,3% who voted for Lega).
A vote, therefore, mainly negative, an expression of "systemic depoliticization", a "sanction" against those who, rightly or wrongly, were considered unable to solve problems, reduce social and personal insecurity and appeared rather concentrated on conflicts of power all internal to the political system. Internal conflicts which were paid for by the PD on the one hand (which paid for the self-harming unleashing of the internal war against Renzi, stopping at 18,8%) and on the other Forza Italia (which, penalized by the tarnishing of the figure of Berlusconi and by absence of replacement, dropped to 14,0%).
The attempt to give a political outcome to the vote through the government alliance (not proposed to the voters) between the two bearers of negative instances and winning results, arbitrated by the "technical" figure of the presentable Lawyer Conte, resulted in the "yellow-green government "; substantially characterized by a sum of choices with a prevailing symbolic value of punishment of the scapegoats identified (abolition of the statute of limitations, closure of ports), accompanied by general welfare measures of social reassurance (citizenship income, quota 100) with a high tax cost.
A year after the 2019 European Championships highlighted the greatest communicative success of Matteo Salvini's performances (with the rise of the League to 34% and the collapse of the M5S to 17%) obtained thanks also to the protagonism given to him by the unleashing of a campaign of denigration to his damage by a substantial portion of the media and the "progressive" intelligentsia and also thanks to the corresponding modesty of the performance, practical and media, of the five-star government team. The consequent attempt by Salvini himself to immediately collect the certification of the changed electoral balances with a recourse to the vote that would presumably have handed over the parliamentary majority to a center-right led by him, however, failed.
To make it fail was the initiative of a part of the managing group of the PD and of Renzi who, both for general reasons (the risk of a government, and in the perspective of a President of the Republic, sovereign that would have led to a substantial and fatal break with the leadership of the European Union) and of a specific order (the risk of marginalization with respect to a new Lega-M5S bipolarism), they agreed to replace the Lega in support of Conte with a government pact with the five stars substantially subject to the the only condition for adopting a constructive dialogue approach with the European Union.
The equilibrium thus constructed lasted in the months immediately following with the substantial acceptance of the pro-European orientation of the PD by the five stars and the contextual adjustment of the democrats to the justicialist and welfare approaches of the M5S; however, according to the polls, it did not produce any change in the balance in voting intentions which provided a picture very similar to that of the European elections in February 2009 (beyond an internal transfer to the center-right from the downsized Salvini to the emerging Meloni).
It is in this scenario that Italy is hit by the Covid 19 pandemic with its evident health and socio-economic consequences and its, less evident, political consequences.
The impact, for some media but for others dramatically concrete with illness and deaths, the disruption of everyone's daily lifestyles, the progressive lowering of available incomes radically change the priority scales on the basis of which the orientations of the various sectors of public opinion: the media fetishes of the fight against corruption and immigration do not disappear, but take a decisive role in the background, with respect to the crucial issue of defense against the health and socio-economic effects of the pandemic.
At the same time, two radical changes take place in the "political offer".
With the coverage offered of the budget overruns necessary to counter the effects of the pandemic and then with the awareness of the Italian crisis as a possible risk factor for the Union (and therefore the direction towards it of huge Community resources) the he negative image of the EU is attenuated and in many ways overturned, making one of the common presuppositions of the two sovereign populisms disappear.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister Conte, up to that moment appeared as a presentable but gray figure, instead of proposing himself, as well as he could, as an authentic "civil servant" capable of bringing together all the political forces in the face of an emergency unprecedented, chooses - instead - to take the opportunity of the pandemic to try to conquer the center of the scene in terms of institutional leadership (the exhumation of the DPCM as a tool of governance), media (the overwhelming use of institutional communication space as a tool of personal propaganda) and of power (the attribution to a commissioner figure of his trust of enormous powers - formal and substantial - devoid of any accountability). All accompanied by the insistent prefiguration of the perspective of a “political” translation of this protagonism (the longed-for “Conte's party”).
The judgments on the actual capabilities shown by the CAC (Conte-Arcuri-Casalino) government in managing the pandemic are at least controversial. According to some, results were obtained in line with those of other European countries, others (including the writer) point out that Italy has had the highest number of deaths compared to the population and, despite having increased more than any other (except Cyprus ) public debt recorded one of the largest falls in GDP in Europe.
What is certain is that, despite an unprecedented media offensive and an unprecedented availability of resources, the Conte government's action failed - from March to November - to have any impact on the voting intentions recorded fairly evenly by the polls, which continued to indicate a share of about 40% undecided / abstained and a gap, among those who express themselves, in favor of the Center-right of about ten points ahead of the "contiano" line-up, well below the 40% threshold of intentions expressed (i.e. less than 25% of the total).
In this situation intervenes the second decisive step which can be considered the beginning of the end of the "red-yellow" government. This is the blitz attempt (according to some even a putsch attempt) made by the prime minister in early December when he tried, in one fell swoop, to centralize the powers on himself and to rely on private structures for the management. of the Recovery Plan funds as well as of the secret services. An operation that, both for the level of distortion of political and institutional practices and for the modalities (approval in a night session of the CdM of documents not previously shared), has few precedents in the seventy years of republican history.
The origins of this reckless gamble remain, at least for the writer, poorly understood. Is it really possible that it was just the expression of an immoderate but amateurish ambition for power of a small group of people who found themselves catapulted into the control room? Or was there a "system" behind it (which later turned out to be a "system") that had encouraged the attempt by unexpectedly guaranteeing its success?
What is certain is that the extravagant attempt by the Prime Minister of a coalition parliamentary government, apparently strong only from an ephemeral opinion poll, to impose on the political forces that guaranteed him the indispensable parliamentary trust such a significant confiscation of roles and powers is blocked following of the reaction of Italia Viva and in particular of its volcanic and unscrupulous political leader Matteo Renzi and of the solid and determined head of delegation to the government Teresa Bellanova.
Beyond the character aspects, the political terms of the Conte - Renzi clash were quite clear: the first tried to translate his apparent media popularity into a further centralization of powers, the second tried to use his effective parliamentary indispensability to obtain the exact opposite, that is, a redistribution of powers (and a recovery of visibility).
The surprising weakness, in terms of content, of Conte's project certainly did not play in his favor: the PNRR he proposed for immediate approval was little more than a disorganized "copy and paste" of pre-existing documents where the only element of the novelty was the creation of a task force external to the public administration and directly dependent on the Prime Minister for its management; the proposed reform of the secret services was also unrelated to any functional motivation and presumably not agreed; finally, as already noted, the results of personalizing the fight against the pandemic and its socio-economic effects were at least controversial. This meant that in the weeks following the explicit opposition of Italia Viva, almost unanimous negative judgments were added up by external observers (forces, social forces, experts, opinion leaders ...) as well as the perception of widespread opposition, more or less submerged, also by parties of sectors consisting of the PD and even of segments of the M5S itself.
The Prime Minister reacted to the situation that had arisen by withdrawing the proposals covered by the casus belli (and he could hardly have done otherwise), entrusting the new draft of the PNRR to the most competent and balanced Minister of the Economy and temporarily suspending the initiative on services (front on which there will then be a backlash whose value deserves to be deepened).
But, beyond the most evident aspects, the crucial point is that the PDC has not substantially accepted to confront its coalition in a politically structured way on the real issue, that is the distribution of powers between him and the parties that supported him, surprisingly helped in this from the line of unconditional support assumed by the PD, which due to parliamentary strength and political prestige could presumably have exercised a very different role.
Faced with the failure to open the confrontation, and the absence of guarantees on a more collegial management and on a greater visibility of its position, the Italia Viva party decided, in early January, to raise the level of the conflict by withdrawing its delegation governmental and, in fact, opening the government crisis. Also in this case the reaction of Conte (and even more the crushing on it of the PD) appear quite surprising (especially given the results). Instead of trying to reconstruct the picture (forcing Renzi to uncover the cards), the path is chosen to try to replace Renzi's parliamentary support with that of a few parliamentarians of various political and geographical origins, essentially united by understandable hostility to the idea of run the risk of the premature end of the legislature. The failure of this tactic is sanctioned by the vote of confidence of the Senate which, even if it does not formally certify the absence of the majority, confirms the essential indispensability of Italia Viva's support. But even the narrow escape from formal danger does not last long, in a sort of paradoxical nemesis the Conte government is forced to resign a few days later to avoid being formally disheartened by the vote on the report on justice by Minister Bonafede, that is precisely on the identity trait traditionally characterizing the M5S .
The formalization of the crisis allows the explicit transfer of its management into the most expert hands of the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella who demonstrates, once again, that he knows how to move with wisdom and determination. Presumably exasperated by Conte's (and part of the PD leadership) stubbornness in the adventurous search for gathering parliamentary majorities, the President first offers a last opportunity to the outgoing parliamentary majority to regroup (through the exploratory task entrusted to an five stars), then - in the face of the failure of the attempt - he assumes the explicit responsibility of proposing to all political forces a "President's Government" led by the most authoritative personality in circulation as the only way to avoid early elections.
The rest is the news of these days: the immediate availability of Renzi and the other intermediate reformist forces (Bonino, Calenda) and the equally skilful move of Berlusconi (who manages not only to get back into the game but even to do so as a "father della patria ”) that open the space for the action of the part of the League that is more aware of the obsolescence of anti-Europeanism and the marginality of the immigration issue. Finding himself in front of the prospect of formation, however, a highly qualified and difficult to attack (at least initially) government induces a careful explorer of the moods widespread in public opinion like Beppe Grillo (in turn aware of the impossibility of adopting it after three years of mediocre government action of the revival of the old anti-system profile) to rush back into the field, removing its movement from the deadly embrace of Contian resentments to direct it towards a future as a mass ecological party, however institutionally "responsible".
In all this the PD, or at least its official leadership, seem to have played a secondary role, appearing systematically late on events and constantly on the defensive. Which is quite surprising considering the historical and specific link of this party with the Presidency of the Republic. What actually happened within the PD is not known (at least to me) just as it is not easy to predict how much, and until when, the line of lukewarm support for the Draghi government can be maintained overlapping that of the relentless pursuit of organic alliance with the M5S to administrative and prospective policies.
The Draghi government is something truly unprecedented in Italian politics, combining in a much more pronounced way than its predecessors (Ciampi, Dini, Monti) the apparent fragility of broad parliamentary support with the disruptive power of leadership's authority. The composition of the team is also quite peculiar, with the core business entrusted to personalities close to the two presidents and a careful dosage of parliamentary weights in the other, even important, roles.
More than the commitment to lead the refurbished PNRR ship to the European port (which appears technically and politically within the reach of a captain who is perhaps the most skilled and expert connoisseur of the seas he has to cross on a continental level) and the distribution of secondary identity flags to the various parties the real test beds seem to be others.
First of all, the redefinition of a more effective campaign to contain the health effects of the pandemic that the appearance of the “variants” and the difficulties in supplying vaccines make it indispensable. Hopefully some change of responsibility will help him in improving the confused relationship with the regions, in better defining tasks and responsibilities and also - we hope - in making information and decision-making mechanisms more transparent.
Secondly, beyond a foreseeable short-term extension, the truly crucial issue appears to be that of overcoming the no longer sustainable emergency tools for limiting social impact (blocking of layoffs, indefinite expansion of the CIG, refreshments and bonuses. ). This is the truly complicated issue to address which will require an extraordinary ability to identify (and communicate) the new, more strategic and sustainable tools to be activated. In this field too, the new Prime Minister is not lacking in skills and competences, technical and political, but the legitimate drive of the political forces to carve out visibility on this front with defensive battles of the existing instruments will presumably be very strong.
If Draghi succeeds in obtaining results perceived as satisfactory by a substantial part of public opinion on these three fronts, then (and only then) a new, healthier phase can truly open up in Italian politics in which the great structural issues of productive recovery, the recovery of social cohesion, the re-establishment of guarantees to individual freedoms. Who writes, for many reasons, can only wish it.
Asking Draghi to take on a political-party perspective would be totally wrong and counterproductive. But asking the political leaders of the various formations that can be inscribed in a pro-European / reformist perspective to reduce the rate of competition and to commit themselves to the search for convergences seems right and, hopefully, productive.