How Democracy is being slowly killed, without us noticing
Italy held elections last March, resulting in a hung parliament with no clear majority. The parties which received the most votes were: the extreme right-wing, North League (Lega Nord); and the populist left-wing, Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle). Due to the lack of decisive majority, the formation of a government and the selection of a new Prime Minister will be difficult, but, after several attempts, Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic, asked the two biggest parties to form a coalition government. The North League and the Five Star Movement came from completely opposite sides of the spectrum, and in spite of the fact that I find myself in complete disagreement with most of their policies, it should be said that they were able to put their differences aside and attempted to form a government in order to allow the Italian people to have a Prime Minister which they have not had since March 4th 2018.
Fig 1. Sergio Mattarella President of the Italian Republic (left) and former designated Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte
The proposed Prime Minister had to be independent as the two forces could not agree on which party should be represented by the head of the Government, therefore selecting Professor Giuseppe Conte as future Prime Minister. On the 26th May, Conte went to the Quirinal Palace, the residence of President Mattarella to give the proposed list of ministers. Mattarella accepted all the names, except the one of Professor Paolo Savona, the proposed Minister for the Treasury, Economics and Finances. Savona had already been Minister for Industry in the 1990’s, and Mattarella allegedly refused to select him for his openly anti-German and Euro-sceptic beliefs.
Firstly, Savona was not anti-Euro, nor anti-european. The Government he served in (the Ciampi Cabinet) during the 1990’s was the government which prepared Italy’s entry inside the Eurozone. All Savona said was that if the EU project collapsed, Italy had to have a plan B. He said Italy required a strong man, who would go in Europe and negotiate to reform the EU, and who would keep Italy’s interests high instead of kneeling to interests of Germany and other European powers. Mattarella rejected this.
What worries me the most, is that we said “no” to a man who dared to question the direction Europe was taking, but not the extreme policies of the League and the absurd spending policies of the Five Star Movement. Instead what we saw was a bloodless coup d’état against the will of the Italian people. Paolo Savona’s only crime? To have a different view regarding Germany and the overwhelming and unfair hegemony it holds over the rest of Europe. However, in the Italian constitution, the President of the Republic is a guarantor of the constitution and therefore must remain completely politically neutral and impartial. Well, that impartiality was broken with President Mattarella’s actions last Sunday 26th May.
Fig 2. Professor Paolo Savona, the proposed Minister of Economics
The Government failed to come together following an attack on Savona, but also because of a coordinated and orchestrated financial attack by the European Union and Germany. These two entities which hold 25% of Italian Debt, made the spread between Italian BTP and German Bonds rise by 150%, leading to a fall in overall Italian Markets. This was a coordinated attack of the Italian democracy, which Mattarella followed as a servant of the International Financial system. This was also seen by the comments made by Gunther Oettinger, the EU Budget Commissioner, which said the following on May 29th; “The Markets and Germany will teach Italy to vote correctly next time.” In my view, that opinion is not even worthy of a comment. If that was the will of the electorate it should be respected. Conte has been now replaced by a former economist, head of the Italian section of the IMF (International Monetary Fund), Carlo Cottarelli who is famously close to the former government whose Democratic Party dropped from 40% in 2014, to 18% in the last elections.
Fig 3. President Mattarella (left) and the former designated Prime Minister Carlo Cottarelli (right)
What Mattarella fails to understand is that this crisis will only increase the chances of a next election where I predict that the two populist parties will win an absolute victory under the momentum given to them by this undemocratic action. Personally I believe Mattarella should resign, yet that is beyond the point.
It is not the first time this happens. It happened in 2011, with the deposition of an incompetent Berlusconi and replacement with another economist Mario Monti. Yet Berlusconi had won a majority in the elections. At the end of the day, Cottarelli failed to form a government, and Giuseppe Conte was called back. The 5 star-Lega government was formed, yet Savona was moved to another ministry in order to please the President of the Republic. This was a slow process culminating today with an assault on the very foundations of democracy, and if by failing to stop it, we have killed democracy. Killed by our own society, under our own tacit approval.