Sparks flew in Italy’s parliament last week when scuffles broke out after a filibustering attempt by the 5 Star Movement was scuppered.
The speaker of Italy’s lower house, Laura Boldrini, forced a vote on laws designed to recapitalise Bank of Italy and to provide funding to allow Italy to avoid asking its citizens to pay the final instalment of the now semi abolished IMU property tax.
The 5 Star Movement people saw the law as a gift to Italy’s banking system and were determined to prevent it from passing. They were well on track too, except their filibustering tactic fell flat when speaker Boldrini invoked a little known never-before-applied rule to call the house to vote before debate could be concluded. The motion passed.
Tension Came to a Head
After Boldrini brought the 5 Star People to heel to call the vote, protests broke out. One 5 Star Movement MP, a woman, was slapped by a politician from an opposing party. A banner with the words ‘Corrupt’ was torn from the hands of 5 Star MPs who tried to occupy the seats where Italy’s ministers usually sit. The situation looked as if it might turn very ugly indeed but did eventually calm down, even if the anger of the 5 Star people has yet to fully subside.
On the days following the vote, 5 Star people attempted to hinder the work of parliamentary commissions. One 5 Star MP generated even more sparks by making an off the cuff comment that female MPs in the PD party had used oral sex to climb the political ladder.
Then attacks on the speaker, Boldrini, were made via Facebook after a satirical video appeared on Beppe Grillo’s Facebook account. Boldrini did not take the insults well and told the 5 Star people their actions were subversive, after commenting that she was appalled by the sexist nature of the insults posted on Facebook. The retort was that by forcing the vote, Boldrini, who should remain impartial, had distorted democracy by not respecting the rights of the 5 Star movement.
The polemics are far from over and even Italy’s Prime Minister Letta has slapped the 5 Star people on the wrist for the ‘barbarism’ of their behaviour. Others are commenting that the 5 Star Movement is nothing more than a bunch of fascists who are prepared to use violence to achieve their ends.
Mainstream media in Italy, much of which is aligned to the interests of the political old guard, is joining in the chorus of protests against the obstreperous 5 Star people. Attempts to cut the 5 Star people out of Italian politics are in full flow and might just prove successful. Arguably, Beppe Grillo and his people have played into the hands of the establishment who are wasting no time at all attempting to discredit the movement.
With the “barbaric” 5 Star Movement out of politics, Italy’s old guard can proceed as before.
Ah but, I hear you cry, there’s wonder-boy Matteo Renzi – he’ll win the day and he’ll quickly steer Italy back on course. Well, you may be right, except information is coming to light which suggests Renzi may be no more than the new face of the old political guard. Like his predecessors, Renzi has made a deal with the opposition. This has been noticed by some in Italy and the Renzi-Berlusconi talks on Italy’s electoral reform have caused some to wonder whether Renzi is as new as he makes himself out to be. For the 5 Star people, the never ending connivance between opposition parties is what is keeping Italy from moving forwards. Now they are in Italy’s parliament, they can see it first hand and it angers them.
It’s not that Renzi is much different to the older members of his party. A former PD party activist told me that Renzi is not averse to cronyism – something else his predecessors were noted for.
The electoral law reform may not work out as everyone is hoping. Even after the reforms go through, Italy may still end up in the hands of party bigwigs who are steered by powerful lobbies. Real Italians – and the 5 Star Movement are real Italians – won’t get a look in – as usual. Italy’s usual suspects will, as usual, laugh all the way to the bank.
Machiavellian Italy is up to its old tricks
Meanwhile, Berlusconi is regrouping and thinks he may be able to clinch and election victory once the electoral reform is in place.
Economically, Italy is still in dire straits. The head of Italy’s Confindustria employer’s association, Giorgio Squnzi, does not think Italy’s hobbled economy will recover to pre-crisis dimensions until 2021.
Corruption remains an enormous problem for Italy, yet legislation to deal with it is nowhere to be seen.
The Renzi Question Mark
The danger to Italy is that Renzi won’t live up to, or keep, his promises and the new guard will simply turn out to be new faces wearing old clothes. While the electoral reform may promote political stability, it may permit thumb-twiddling inept governments to hold onto power for even longer than under the old electoral system. A chilling thought.
As for the 5 Star Movement, it’s going to have to do some navel gazing or else it’ll be sidelined well before elections eventually occur.
Perhaps some of the more down to earth 5 Star people should consider setting up a spin-off party before it is too late. Their pent up anger at Italy’s reluctance to fix itself is being labelled as barbarism. If this reputation sticks, Beppe Grillo’s hopes of destroying the old to ring in the new will come to an abrupt end.
Will Italians stand by quietly and let the refaced old guard keep itself in place? That remains to be seen.
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