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Italian Politics is in a Mess

I have know idea how much readers of this blog know about Italian politics, but if they have read some of the articles I’ve written on the subject over the years, then they will know it is a strange world which seems to be completely divorced from reality.

Recently in Italy, two political parties; well, one really, seeing as the other no longer exists; are in big trouble over misuse, or rather, abuse of party funds.  One dodgy treasurer used around €20 million to pay for vacations, real estate and a luxury lifestyle.  The dodgy politician in question has admitted as much and says he’ll pay the money back.  It is not clear how or when.

Next up, there is the case of the Lega Nord party – which, for the moment, still exists.  The now ex-leader of this party,  Umberto Bossi, according to a few honest administrators who have been talking to investigators, used public funds and donations to finance the luxury lifestyle of his direct family members and at least one party member who also happened to be a close friend.

The misuse of public money by the Lega Nord party had been going on for years.  For exactly how long, nobody really knows.  What is suspected is that the Lega Nord people had been taking backhanders and, may even have been laundering money for organised crime in Italy.

Italian newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano, believes that other political parties have been helping the Lega Nord through the years to keep its dirty laundry well and truly hidden.  This is believable.

What has not been hidden is that the Lega Nord party spent around €3 million on its most recent election campaign, and that owing to the weird way political party funding in Italy works, Lega Nord received an election campaign expenses reimbursement of no less than €41 million!  Not bad at all, and totally and utterly disproportionate.

Bigger Italian parties received even larger reimbursements despite not having spent the same amounts on campaigning.  All these huge globs of cash, hundreds of millions of lovely Euros, came out of the pockets of Italy’s, few, taxpayers.

Aside from the fact that the sums dished out to the politicians were just plain ridiculous, these erstwhile political parties do not really have to explain how all this money is used.  And these parties can keep these generous handouts for as long as they want.

Even more amusing, unless you are one of Italy’s tax payers, is that laws regarding party funding were changed relatively recently, but in a classic case of “everything changes, so everything stays exactly the same”, Italy’s political parties continued to receive huge handouts.

On top of this farcical situation is the fact that Italy is so corrupt it is beyond a joke and the most corrupt people in Italy appear to be, yes, you guessed, Italy’s extremely well paid and tax-payer financed politicians.  Not only do the honorable ladies and gentlemen who sit, and do not do much else, in Italy’s parliament benefit from massive handouts, they are also paid very generously and enjoy a range of outrageous perks, such as free tickets to the cinema, free rail travel, cheap meals and haircuts.  Then there are the ridiculously generous pensions.

Yet these people, who are aware that voters in Italy are not overly happy with their incompetence, will not vote through legislation to reduce levels of corruption in Italy.  Why are they so reluctant to clamp down on corruption?  Probably, one must conclude, because they are so corrupt.

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Now, Italians, those who do pay taxes, are having to pay for the errors of their masters who continue to refuse to be reformed.  Years of inaction have left Italy’s economy in a distinct mess, and millions of Italians are without work too, especially Italy’s young, 30% of whom have no jobs.  Talk about lack of performance.  Aren’t politicians supposed to plan for the future of the nations they purport to rule?  I think so.

Today, and only really after the misappropriation of party funds scandals, there is talk of revising the way Italy’s parties are funded.  Watchwords such as “transparency” are being bandied about, in what is a vain hope of convincing voters in Italy that the nation’s politicians actually know what the word means.

Some reform may come about, after lots of bickering, and expended hot air, but Italians are becoming rather sick of all the promises which are never made good.

Apparently Italy’s politicians are somewhat concerned that Italy’s citizens may take matters into their own hands.  This would not be such a bad thing.  Indeed, it would be fun to see ten million Italians march on Rome and into its parliament building – which they own anyway (Italy is a republic) – and stand over every last one of the current bunch of politicians there while they sign their, irrevocable, resignations.

If this were to happen, and the chances of it happening are very slim, Italy could start from scratch politically and choose some representatives who will give Italy the leadership it deserves.  It is about time after all.

One does wonder, unfortunately, whether it might be too late, although there are aspects – parts of the education system, certain businesses and certain social aspects, such as the Italian family, which do work and work quite well – for the moment.

Past attempts to bring politics to heel in Italy have failed miserably.  The supposed anti-corruption clamp down of the mid-90s did not change a thing – corruption levels actually rose – just ask a few of Italy’s most senior judges.

Yes, the political system in Italy is in a real mess, as is, unsurprisingly, Italy.

It is time Italy changed and put some decent people in government – people with vision, integrity and the skills needed to turn Italy round.  Leaders who train leaders.  Such people do exist, only few of them would be interested in entering the murky world of Italian politics in its present state.  Actually, Italy’s political classes do their level best to ensure real politicians never surface – keeping their privileges is far more important than running Italy properly, or preparing the country for the future, it seems.

Italy is a fabulous country with heaps of potential and it has some extremely valid people.  Very, very few of these people are in politics, alas.

Gripe over.

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