November 11, 2012
The term “caste” epitomises the extent of privileges built up by politicians in the last 5-6 decades; the term was first used in an Italian book, written by Sergio Rizzo and Gian- Antonio Stella, two journalists from the Italian national newspaper Corriere della Sera and evidences the divide existing between the common citizen who must work 37 years to get his pension and the politician who only takes 5 years (one legislature) to gain access to it.
Another grave problem is the high level of sleaze.
The present government, headed by Mario Monti – who chose to relinquish compensation for as long as his mission lasts – is in the process of lowering some of those privileges, made up of direct and indirect income, with the intent to reduce the gap existing with the average European parliamentarian. However, the present government, nominated by the President and composed of mainly technical experts, is confronted with an heterogeneous majority ranging from right to left and, wryly, includes a substantial number of discredited members of the old guard presided by Silvio Berlusconi. Piero Longo, Member of Parliament and Berlusconi’s attorney, publicly declared “parliament must be the median representation of the population, why should it be better? Should we signify that delinquency is not part of the Country?”
The Monti take-caring government will last till Spring 2013, when new political elections will be held. The puzzle is way more intricate because of further variables: a new electoral law is being debated in parliament since a semester with no compromise in view and the so called “anti-corruption law” that should make ineligible those candidates condemned for serious offences; minor offences would pass the net, however. Should the law be approved in its present form – declaring members ineligible if sentenced beyond two years – 100 members shall not be elected; informed press-sources maintain that half the present parliament would not be eligible (circa 300) if the law foresaw ineligibility in the event of whatever sentence.
The fast advance of a new populist party “Movimento 5 Stelle” (M5S) bursting a 20% consensus at present, when the larger long standing “Partito Democratico” shows a 30% preference and “PDL” (Berlusconi) a lukewarm 15%, has caused fright in the established nomenclature to such an extent that they are desperately trying to devise a new electoral law impeding a majority premium (to guarantee governance) if a party or a coalition does not surpass a 42.5% consensus, a blatant absurdity. According to M5S, an EU regulation establishes that electoral laws cannot be altered in the last 12 months preceding elections; as a result Italians would, once again, vote for party-nominated candidates, being precluded to them the choice offered by an open listing. An undeclared intent is to make the formation of a new coalition difficult so to encourage a second Monti government, this time political, supported by “Unione di Centro” viewed as the political arm of the Catholic Church, PDL and Lega Nord. It is unclear, and I doubt, that Mr Monti would accept to lead such a coalition whose intent is to display a respectable figurehead while continuing to play politics.
The expanse of the territory. The second variable making Italy’s governance complex is the extension of territory with different historical backgrounds and associated cultures.
From the southernmost Trapani to the northernmost Como the Country spans over 1,639 Km; if you decide to ride the same distance northwards, assuming Como as the southernmost town, then you reach Kaliningrad (4 Countries) or Newcastle (3 or 5 Countries depending on the chosen route) or Gothenburg (4 Countries) and Madrid (2 Countries only!); so many countries as many cultures. Italy, a relatively recent unified Country for 150 years, has experienced several dominations: Sicily (from the Greeks to Byzantines, Arabs and Normans), Sardinia (Aragonese and papal influence), Central Italy (papal states), Piedmont (French client republic), Lombardy (Austrian Empire), Veneto (Republic of Venice, Austrian Empire). This potpourri of cultures has been naturally borrowed by the local population with assimilated manners and demeanours. It stands to reason that, if you are a visitor on electoral campaign or you are on business, you better adjust your behaviour according to the proper area.