Mario Monti Rocks Italy’s Rickety Political Boat

Outgoing technocrat Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti completed his decent, or as he prefers to call it, “ascent” into the muddled, murky world of Italian politics last weekend.

At the time he showed off his shiny new electoral list symbols, Monti stated that Italians with convictions or who are under investigation would not be proposed as potential candidates for Italy’s parliament. This is something of a revolution in Italy whose parliament contains far too many individuals of highly questionable character.

Monti also stated that the members of his list would not be made up of those who are already parliamentarians.  New faces? Let’s hope so! Competence and integrity would be welcome too.

Monti's Civic Choice Symbol

Monti’s Civic Choice Symbol for Lower House List

Monti is positioning himself as a force for change.  He knows Italian politics needs sorting out, as do Italy’s voters, 50% of whom really have no idea who to vote for. To help disillusioned Italians understand what Monti stands for, the man himself took to twitter in a question and answer session which this Italy watcher followed.

This, for posterity, is what Mario Monti wants for Italy:

  • that Italy’s chooses its politicians much more carefully;
  • a more “serious” electoral law – a priority for Monti;
  • a more transparent and efficient public sector;
  • that women  play a stronger, more proactive, role in Italian society;

Incidentally, after his tweet with the people twitter session, Monti’s twitter following grew from just under 100,000 to around 150,000.

Proudly Italian, and resolutely European

Monti also tweeted that he’s proudly Italian, and resolutely European, so Italians can expect a pro-Europe stance from him, although that he is staunchly pro-European has never been in doubt. He also feels that he’s something of a pioneer in that he’s attempting to do something which nobody has really tried before – he wants Italy’s politicians to work for the good of the nation and not simply for their own personal benefit.

While Monti’s promises are nothing new in the promise-filled world of Italian politics, he is more convincing and it is more likely he will stick to his guns, although that does remain to be seen. Monti does seem to genuinely believe in Italy. That makes two of us! ;)

Italians are used to their politicians making endless promises and are also used to their politicians never doing what they say. Some will regard Monti’s promises with a high degree of cynicism. Actions will, as ever, speak louder than words. But to see those actions, Monti will need votes. Will Italians view him as a honest, credible breath of fresh air?

Votes Will Speak Volumes

The next step, and Italy is now in the midst of a full-blown electoral campaign, will be for Monti’s lists to earn enough votes for those he chooses to end up in both houses in Italy’s parliament. Just how many will end up in the right places is uncertain as is whether there will be enough to make a real difference.

Polls suggest that Italy’s left leaning PD party may win elections in late February, but it is unclear whether it will obtain a working majority. The PD is very much tied to old school Italian politics and is not presenting a manifesto which offers anything new. This, coupled with a non-existent track record does not bode too well for Italy’s future should the PD win.

 

Not all are convinced Monti’s approach is the answer to Italy’s dire economic state. Monti’s development minister Corrado Passera is not convinced say Monti’s agenda for Italy is a lost opportunity which  is not courageous enough.

Silvio Berlusconi seems to think Monti is left-friendly, although this is not correct. Monti is not at all enamored with Italy’s left wing factions.

Monti has also chosen allies – there’s ex Berlusconi man Gianfranco Fini and centrist political leader Pier Ferdinando Casini, as well as widely respected Ferrari chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. Not many new faces, so far.

Monti is Too Clean for Some

Monti’s clean list stance will cause problems for other Italian politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi who has been convicted, albeit not definitively  and is facing a string of other court cases.

Berlusconi has never worried about selecting and appointing persons with criminal convictions or dubious backgrounds to positions of power at national and regional level in Italy.  One of Berlusconi’s proteges, dental hygienist Nicole Mintetti is in court facing accusations of procuring prostitutes for ex-premier Berlusconi and more recently, the same Minetti was caught using her expense account to fund the purchase of drinks for friends and items such as iPads, a iPhone 5 and even a book on Italy’s casting couch politics – the infamous, in Italy, Mignottocrazia.

At least 49 of Berlusconi’s PdL party national politicians are embroiled in court cases. Investigations in 2012 will have increased this number after scandals broke in the Lazio and Lombardy regions of Italy. Yes, both national and region level politicians are under the legal spotlight in Italy.

Not only will Monti’s clean list initiative make Berlusconi’s mob look bad, it won’t make Italy’s left leaning PD party look too good either.  In 2011, around 11 PD politicians had either been convicted or were under investigation.

There is no doubt that Italian politics needs a good dose of spring cleaning, and Monti’s feather duster may, finally, initiate the process.  Other parties may follow suit and clean up their lists too.

Maybe the rickety boat which is Italian politics will return to port for a refit. We shall see.

Interesting times in Italy, even if real change is long, long overdue.

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Comments

  1. Paul London says

    Interesting piece as always Alex. I see the “Monti” name is very prominent in that logo – very common I think to have an individual’s name on these in Italy – do you have an explanation for this?

    • says

      Italy is all about image, Paul – hence the names everywhere. As a very experienced ex AP press journalist once told me, it’s not what is said that counts in Italy, but who says it – that sums the situation up very nicely.

      Substance is not too important in Italy, image, on the other hand, is – hence the prominent display of Monti’s name.

      Glad you liked the piece.

      Cheers,

      Alex

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