Italy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is facing accusations of authoritarianism over his aggressive approach to forcing reforms through the nation’s parliament. Mr Renzi has even been dubbed the new Mussolini. Is this fair?
No, in the opinion of this Italy watcher, it is not really fair to label Italy’s Matteo Renzi as the nation’s 21st century equivalent to Italy’s notorious dictator Benito Mussolini – at least not for now.
To an extent, Mr Renzi has little option but to be authoritarian. Italy desperately needs reforms and has needed reforming for a good few decades but despite repeated promises on all sides of Italy’s ever colourful political spectrum, no real reforms have ever appeared and as a consequence Italy has been sliding downhill ever faster.
The decline has yet to really bottom out let alone be reversed though this may happen at some time during 2015. There are a few signs that Italy’s economy is beginning to pick up. The only hope for Italy is that structural and other reforms do actually happen and that is what Mr Renzi is supposedly laying the foundations for albeit a little late in the day.
If Mr Renzi achieves his reform aims, Italy should end up with governments which will not be continually forced into compromises as happened over and over again in the nation’s past. This is one reason why modernising Italy has been an uphill struggle and is also why the nation’s economic decline is continuing while other nations such as the United Kingdom, the USA and even Greece are starting to leave the global crisis behind.
With intelligent reforms, Italy could begin to say goodbye to the crisis and start itself on a path towards economic recovery. Italy has plenty of potential and governments which can decide and then implement policy which is not watered down by endless compromise should be able to make a difference.
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The fear is, though, that Mr Renzi is merely tightening the grip on the nation of Italy’s ill performing, greedy and corrupt political classes and lobbies, or else he’s about to hand the nation over to a new group of incompetent, greedy, and corrupt politicians and ethically-challenged lobbies. Then again, Mr Renzi might actually drag reactionary Italy kicking and screaming into the 21st century. From the ashes, a new economic power may rise phoenix-like. That’s what this Italy watcher hopes, though it is far too soon to say whether this will be the case.
No Overnight Solution
Even if Mr Renzi does point Italy in a better direction – one which many in Italy will regard as ‘authoritarian‘ for the simple reason that governments that come into being after Mr Renzi’s reforms should be able to do more or less what they want, the effects won’t be seen for a good few years yet. This, of course, assumes that future Italian governments act responsibly. Up to now, they have not, hence many of Italy’s problems. There’s also the danger of another Berlusconi-type character ending up in power.
Proposed, though yet to be seen, anti-corruption and conflicts of interests laws should reduce the risk of self-serving politicians taking power.
Will the Quality of Italy’s Political Leaders Ever Improve?
Even if all goes according to Mr Renzi’s plans, will Italy’s politicians actually be capable of acting responsibly? Who knows. That is something which will have to be seen before it is believed and Italy is no less Machiavellian today than it always has been.
A responsible, though authoritarian style of government could make a positive difference to Italy. On the other hand, an irresponsible authoritarian style of governance could cause merely add more nails to the coffin that is Italy’s slow decline.
Other Events May Overtake Italy
In the meantime, while the nation waits for Mr Renzi to wave his magic wand, or rather, to whip the unruly peninsular in what he believes is a better direction, Italy could default on its national debt or other events could overtake Italy completely. One is thinking here about the march of ISIS extremists who appear to be establishing a foothold in Libya and who have threatened to attack Rome (not that they possess this capability – yet). Then again, the Ukraine situation could literally blow up and the fallout could be disastrous for Italy.
What do you think? Does Italy need a moderate dose of authoritarianism to help point it in a better direction?