When six out of ten voters do not go to the voting urns, it is no longer time to analyse what motivated those who chose to, but what motivated those who chose not to choose.
Carlo Clericetti is an Italian journalist. In the past he has directed “Affari & Finanza”, a weekly supplement published by “La Repubblica”, and web portals. Currently he blogs for “La Repubblica”, for his personal website “Blogging in the wind”, and writes for other websites on economy and politics.
Translated and edited by BRAVE NEW EUROPE
You can read the original Italian version from MicroMega here
When there is no credible policy to vote for, voters do not vote. This could be on the tombstone of politics, whose demise is now certified by the lowest voter turnout ever. Lazio’s 37.2 per cent is just half a point above the negative record that belonged to Emilia Romagna, but in Lombardy it has not gone much better: in the two regions, the most important in Italy, turnout has plummeted by more than 30 points compared to the last election.
Both right-wing candidates exceeded 50 per cent of the votes cast. This would seem to be a triumph, were it not for the fact that the line-up as a whole has lost a million and a half votes since the last vote. And so the meaning of this result can only be read in one way: the alternative parties to the right-wing parties have so disappointed their old voters that they have not even obtained their consent to block the way for those who were once seen as adversaries, but are now evidently lumped in with the others according to the old apathetic voter adage ‘they are all the same’.
One seems to sense, however, that there is more to it than indifference to what was once one’s political side. There is probably that anger that makes the abstentionists say: ‘come what may, I won’t vote for them any more’. The anger of those who felt cheated, of those who remember how Maastricht Europe and the single currency were portrayed as a journey to the land of Dreams and instead after thirty years find themselves poorer, more precarious, with fewer guarantees and fewer prospects.
One will ask: what does this have to do with an administrative vote? It has something to do with the climate that has been created, the one we have described.
Francesco Giavazzi, the neo-liberal economist and former close collaborator of Mario Draghi, reminds us in the Corriere della sera that this week sees the start of the final negotiations to change the European rules which have been suspended since the beginning of the pandemic and which should come back into force with the new year. Giavazzi gives a favourable verdict on the proposal drawn up by the Brussels Commission, which, in all likelihood, will be accepted at most with some non-substantial changes. Even many economists who criticised the old rules believe there is an improvement. In this writer’s opinion, it is an improvement similar to drowning in a 100 metre deep lake that, after an earthquake caused the bottom to rise, became only 20 metres. It may be better, but one still drowns.
The fact is that the logic has not changed. It is not only because we focus only on public accounts while ignoring – at least in that area, which becomes central to the governance of the Union – issues that are at least as important (or perhaps more so). For example, issues of tax competition: we continue to tolerate the existence of ‘havens’ even within the EU. For example, employment, the level of which is a result of the policies needed to ‘respect the rules’. But above all, those rules involve mechanisms that are completely in the hands of the so-called ‘technocrats’. In the end, it is their work that draws the boundaries within which politics can move.
The right-wing government realised this, which, even with the rules still suspended, had to make a budget law ‘as if…’. This avoided worse trouble, such as the madness of the flat tax, but it was nevertheless proof of the limited scope in which national politics can move.
Having said that, however, the very first moves of the right-wing government are showing that, even within the limited scope of manoeuvre, one can do good things and much less good things. And of the latter, in the last quarter century, the centre-left has done plenty. Starting with the unconditional adhesion to the Maastricht Treaty and the single currency: of course, one could not stay outside Europe, but other countries have, for example, used the ‘opting out’ clauses to avoid swallowing at least part of the medicine. And then, the privatisations made without criterion, the renunciation of an industrial policy, the precariousness of work, the greater powers to the regions with a bad constitutional reform… The centre-left – and the social democrat Partito Democratico (PD) in its various incarnations – when it was in government this line espoused it with enthusiasm. Renzism (from Matteo Renzi, a former PD leader) was the culmination of a long march within the dominant culture. Afterwards (apart from the Gentiloni – his successor at the head of government – appendix) it is as if the heads of that party have turned off. Just fumbling from one crisis to the next without an analysis of the past, and the current race for the PD leadership shows that one does not want to make that analysis, or is not capable of it. We had tried to stimulate some clear policies on the most important issues, but the candidates were careful not to respond.
It is useless to talk about Italia Viva, a small party of troublemakers that in a few years’ time will perhaps be useful to some history graduate to do his thesis. Alternatives to the government remain the 5 Star Movement, who after the deadly embrace with the League and the interludes of the government with the PD and Draghi’s government, have saved themselves from extinction by taking on the representation of the dispossessed of the South. It is good that someone does this, but it cannot be enough for the party to achieve a much higher consensus than at present. Even there, a policy is lacking, as well as a precise direction.
To be surprised because the majority no longer goes to the polls is to ignore this bleak panorama, from which there is no way out because the current protagonists do not seem to want to leave. Perhaps in the future, having exhausted even the last voters, a couple of artificial intelligences will be programmed to pretend to be alternatives and vote in their place. Democracy will be saved.
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