All posts by Emanuele1975

Italian populism and the art of propaganda: how to gain consensus without governing

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini explain his point of view on the present crisis in Italy and the growing of populism in the country, in light of recent political events. It’s a bit longer than most entries on this blog but the  the topic deserves special attention, to allow non-Italians  to better understand the events.


All propaganda must be popular, adapting its level to the least intelligent of the individuals to whom it is directed. The larger the mass is to convince, the smaller the mental effort must be made. Their capacity to elaborate informations is very poor, as well as their memory”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Vulgarization”)

The best way to make sense to what is happening in the Italian political scenario since March 5th onwards, is to use the words of Joseph Gobbels, Third Reich Minister of Propaganda. Because it’s only propaganda that moves on the debate. Economic crisis, high unemployment rate, inability of governments to communicate the importance of being part of the EU to be competitive and the unexpected explosion in the numbers of migrants landed on Italian coasts, fueled anger and indignations in people, so populist forces only need to feed this desire for rebellion to gain consensus, without making any serious and concrete proposal.

Moreover, among M5S (Five Stars Movement) and Lega voters, besides people tired of institutions, there is also a part less educated and another part  little inclined to go beyond a search on Google. People only need simple solutions to complex problems, and this nothing better for populist forces.

Italian Constitution state that is the President of Republic that have the power to nominate Prime Minister and “on the indication of the latter”, all the Ministers. This was not the first time that President of Republic says ‘no’ to one of the name on the list, so it is usual to present him also some alternative names. But the institutional clash is exactly that 5 Stars Movement and Lega wanted to provoke from the beginning of this crisis.

They found help in a particularly poor electoral law, which only allow a grouping to govern if a single party of a coalition reach 40%. None of the three blocks achieved this result, so President Sergio Mattarella tried first to join M5S (most voted party) and center-right (most voted coalition). But the attempt failed on the request from M5S to dialogate only with Lega, without Forza Italia and ‘condemned’ Berlusconi. Then he tried to join M5S with Democratic Party (second most voted party) but also this attempt failed, because of a ‘suffered no’ from this latter party.

When, in order to avoid a new ‘techincal Monti-style government’ Berlusconi accepted to ‘step aside’, it officially started the populist alliance’s attempt to delegitimate the institutions we are watching to, which is functional to the only real project: to grow consensus and return to the vote as soon as possible, without getting their hands dirty with the responsibility of government, with the risk of losing voters.

Propaganda must limit itself to a small number of ideas and repeat them tirelessly, always present them under different perspectives, but always converging on the same concept. Without doubts or uncertainties. From here comes the phrase: “A lie repeated endlessly becomes the truth”.

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “Principle of Orchestration”)

Never stop propaganda. This is only important thing for the Italian populist parties. And do it in their own way: small number of ideas, few simple concepts that indignant people have to assimilate and built the consensus around them.

So, there is the so-called ‘Government contract’: a mix of economical proposals without coverage, a parallel currency, a ‘far west –style’ justice and racial discriminations. And there is the battle, sought and wanted on the appointed Minister of Economy Paolo Savona, a highly regarded professor well known in Europe for his ‘Euro-Exit’ ideas. President Mattarella accepted a ‘non elected’ mostly unknown prime minister (jurist and professor Giuseppe Conte), and all the list of ministers they propose. Except for Savona. And that’s exactly they want to reach. For M5S and Lega was important to present this name without an alternative one to say: “Without Paolo Savona, we will not make government start” and go to the clash.

It was above all Lega Leader Matteo Salvini who wants the clash, even if he spoke of ‘dignity’: everything was functional to build a narrative that had only one great ‘all season’ enemy, to be used as a ‘non government alibi’ and if needed as lightning rod in case the ‘impossible government’ had started and failed in their ‘proposals’.

“It is necessary to adopt only one idea, one symbol. And above all, to identify the adversary in an enemy, in the sole responsible of all evils “

(J.Goebbels, The 11 propaganda principles, “The Unique Enemy”)

M5S and Lega leaders, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, are well aware that it is impossible to get into the Government quickly through the change of the electoral law.

How to get out of the stall and gain consensus, then? Maximizing the tone of the fight, lowering even more the level of arguments and pointing to the belly of the voters (in example: video-harangues on facebook and tweets through which they call for a mass mobilitation), in a sort of massacre game and reduce as much as possible the number of real ‘competitors’. Then return to the vote as soon as possible. And if there is still not enough consensus, start again.

First step reached: Italy, probably will vote again in July, only 4 months after last elections:  none of the parties – not even the Democratic Party and +Europa  (albeit for different reasons) – will support the technical government that President Mattarella has now entrusted to a famous economist, Carlo Cottarelli, former International Monetary Fund official. He will therefore only remain in office at interim with limited tasks until next elections.

Uploading errors and faults to the opponent, responding to the attack with the attack. If you cannot deny bad news, invent new ones to distract “

(Joseph Goebbels, The 11 Principles of Propaganda, Transposition).

The only real winner of this game, unfortunately, is Matteo Salvini. The former MEP Parliament used the initial real M5S willing to govern (and their claimed inexperience, and multiform shape) to make them accept a right oriented ‘Government contract’ that distorted some of their principles and disturbed the ‘left oriented’ base Movement. More, Salvini is eroding Forza Italia spaces, and when Italy will return to vote, probably he will succeed in the objective of seeing Lega  consensus grow a lot.

And if M5S were to lose also some votes because of that ‘compromise’, then could be also possible that Lega becomes first Italian party.

This is why it is absolutely necessary that the liberal, pro-European and democratic forces – setting aside the differences – already join forces to build a real alternative to a drift that risks turning Italy into Venezuela rather than Hungary. Only in this way, with a dialogue around shared projects, can we really change Europe and lay the foundations for a re-start that gives Italy the leading role in the Union.

 

 

 

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INTERVIEW ON IDENTITY POLITICS AND THE RISE OF THE PARTY ISLAM

In the debate surrounding immigration, integration, religious fanaticism and radicalism, all too often the debate is about the migrants, but not involving migrants. Today, Dr Sid Lukkassen discusses these topics with Manel Mselmi: a young woman of Tunisian origin who is active for Mouvement Réformateur in Belgium. She is currently a PhD candidate in environmental humanities, a talk show host and a blogger. Sid published several books on topics such as geopolitics, humanism, media analysis and the culture wars and, from 2010 – 2018, he was active as a city councillor (VVD)

Manel: I am happy to begin this discussion. An Islamic political party was recently created in Belgium. Hasn’t something similar happened in the Netherlands?

Sid: A few years ago, two MPs split off from the Labour Party (PvdA) and established DENK. The MPs were from a a Turkish background and the party is focused on migrant issues. I would not hesitate to call this identity politics. This party is on the rise, particularly in major cities.

Manel: I noticed that identity politics is also a theme in my municipality. Some years ago, a large share of cultural subsidies were used for a film festival that accentuated a particular migrant community, but the general cultural curriculum was ignored.

Sid: Did you speak out about it, at the time?

Manel: It bothered me because it was so one-sided: things like Western literature were ignored as a result. I could not escape the impression that Labour were doing this to win migrant votes. People from my community said that the left was doing to help migrants and that I, being of migrant descent, shouldn’t criticise. However, I pointed out that this approach only pushes migrants into a group identity; liberals should do the opposite and emphasize the opportunities and rights of individuals.

Sid: What you noticed back then, was the cocoon of identity politics being spun. The Party Islam is the butterfly that hatched from that cocoon.

Manel: At least now the left is forced to see what they have created, directly or indirectly. What bothers me is that we have no parties with real values at the core of their programs. In any case those values are so watered down that the main parties appear to be the same. By contrast, the Party Islam exudes a strong sense of identity that will appeal to many who feel spiritually and politically uprooted.

Sid: I guess we can say that the left never demanded integration as part of its message to the migrant voter. Instead, they wanted to tap into this electorate through migrant identitarian statements. For example, party programs written in foreign languages or by advocating policies with some Islamic accents here and there. But now, politically active Muslims realize that the left doesn’t offer a strong base for the future. The left – especially the cultural left – hasn’t done much to support traditional families. However, family is a core value of Islam. The left tries to tweak society, but Islam, especially when it becomes political, presents its own model of society.

Manel: That adds up with what I said before, that all the parties begin to look more alike, with the Party Islam then being a strong and demographically viable alternative. If this continues, we move to a state of society where the demographic question takes over the political sphere. Then, labels like ‘liberal’ or ‘social democratic’ will mean less and less in practice.

Sid: Do you consider yourself mostly as a politician, public intellectual or academic?

Manel: I may be a woman from a ‘minority’ background, but I feel mostly driven to defend the Western liberties. I never allowed any identitarian issue to hold me back in my career. Personally, I see you as a fellow relevant thinker on today’s debate on identity and Islam. You can be a successful politician, but your problem is that you are brave enough to be direct and straightforward when presenting your ideas. I can relate to how it would mean that one is sometimes criticised by their own community.

Sid: Politics is a snaky business, and moving up in politics has more to do with in-crowd networking than with developing original ideas. Many politicians seem not to care about that. They are formed by decades of peace and prosperity, and cannot see the real danger of a society becoming dysfunctional.

Manel: Sometimes I am disappointed because democracy can be very vulnerable. I do believe strongly in Western values but it is complicated – we are in an ideological war. It’s strong but also risky that you address these concerns in a direct manner.

Sid: I am confident that my direct style will reach people, even if it takes time. People will hear me better once the system of the current elite begins to crumble. This could be quite fast given that they [the elite] ignore constructive criticism, as you’ve noticed.

Manel: We have to raise awareness among young people about the need to be engaged in politics and fight against extremist parties. Secularism and individual liberties need to be preserved.

Sid: In that sense, you and I have something in common with the Party Islam. Meaning that we try to build awareness and political influence not from the top – as the top tends not to listen – but from the bottom.

Manel: We need truly driven people for this political challenge: convinced and determined ones to build networks.

Sid: It is the only way. From my activities in the media, academic world and by being an elected representative for eight years, my impression is that if you go knock at the gates of the elites to give report from society and to tell them the story from the streets, then you will be portrayed as a ‘racist’.

Manel: This is definitely true. But they forget that values, once you lose them, are hard to grow back as a basis for society. In any case our media activities are a good step to create awareness. Following from this, migrants stop to trust the left parties and they begin to see how they have been used.

Sid: DENK attacks and shames the migrants who are active for other political parties. By doing this, they seek to unify the migrant community as one solid political block. They try to distance those other politically active migrants from that group. But if their aim succeeds, then there is always the chance that all the other blocks will team up against them, since the migrant vote at that point won’t benefit any other party.

Manel: Things will get more polarized from now. Whatever happens – I am glad to share these thoughts with you and to develop our ideas. I feel that I am not alone in this struggle, and hope that our discussion will inspire other young intellectuals.

To conclude, a critique of the identitarian left is often perceived as being disrespectful towards minorities and as violating their rights. The left fears that such criticism leads to ‘second rate citizens’, but they cannot argue with demography; nor can they play their victimhood status trump card when the critical voices come from the minorities themselves, who have experienced what political Islam means in their countries of origin. The left thus generally avoids this debate, as engaging in it could jeopardize their morally superior status.

Italian Alde Individual Members Country Coordinators: candidates manifesto

Italian ALDE Individual Members are voting also to elect Country Coordinators. In this post, we asked asked to the candidates to present themselves with a manifesto. He we are the answers, we received them  from foue of eight candidates

ANDREINA SERENA ROMANO

As for the poor result of +Europa in last italian elections,  how to restart to buiild a liberal-democratic italian house, who can be a firm and alternative voice to to fight the populist drift?

First of all it is essential to get rid of the political thought that we Italians are used to. We live in a moment of great instability and distrust, what people expect is positivity and solutions. From here we must start, following the many liberal European examples, to build a liberal democratic home that can make the difference.

What we need to focus on is a new wave of ideas that totally deviates from what has been done up until now: in the names, in the diaries, in the programmes.

The perspective of a declared anti-EU Government risk to isolate Italy in European policies, and next year’s EU Election could deliver a similar situation, not also in Italy. What could be the role of the Alde and the liberal-democratic and radical forces?

Alde should open itself to more popular initiatives: this means for me to get closer to people and tell them about the objectives and responses of the EU in these years. We need to talk, talk more constantly, only in this way can we explain how important Europe is for all of us and for our growth. You probably need to do it with a more “pop” and less formal apportion, moving away from long days on difficult issues but making the learning process easier and usable.

What are the priorities to be addressed in South Constituency,  on which you will work in case of election?

The South of Italy at this moment is experiencing a small quiet revolution. A moment of refusal. And he revealed it in these last elections. It is essential to open up to more people, especially coming to small local circuits. We have to look not only to great electoral challenges, but also to the smaller challenges. just so we can get closer to more people. This I would like to imagine for the South, a constant path that sees ALDE always alongside people.

CARLO D’APRILE

As for the poor result of +Europa in last italian elections,  how to restart to buiild a liberal-democratic italian house, who can be a firm and alternative voice to to fight the populist drift?

Although the election’s result were  not positive for the +Europa  list I’m strongly convinced that only a movement like this could carry on the idea of building a liberal party in a basically Eurosceptic country. The outcome was not totally satisfying due to different reasons:

– +Europa was born officially only 1½ month before the elections. Therefore, we as supporters had not enough time to spread the liberal and pro-european message among the electorate.

– +Europa was ally of Democratic Party, led by Matteo Renzi, a figure that was considered by the average of the people as one of the cause of Italy’s economic situation;

– The circulation of fake-news throughout in social media spread the idea that the European Union and its institutions are not only useless, but even people’s enemy. In the following days we’ll join the first assembly of the Europhile movement called “Forza Europa”, whose goal is to make the foundation of “+Europa” completely possible, with an approved charter, defined roles and responsibility and a shared political programme. I don’t know yet if this project will see the light of day, but I think that only a political movement or party, with liberal and pro-european values, can be the right answer to populism.

The perspective of a declared anti-EU Government risk to isolate Italy in European policies, and next year’s EU Election could deliver a similar situation, not also in Italy. What could be the role of the Alde and the liberal-democratic and radical forces?

In these rounds of consultations with the main Italian political parties, the president of the republic Mattarella made clear that the new Italian government will have to respect and protect Italy’s role in the EU. After the elections Di Maio (M5S) said that in case of a government led by M5S “Italy will remain NATO’s ally and will stay both in the EU and in the Eurozone”. Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think that, even if a government between M5S and Lega will be arranged, it will be not as eurosceptic as we feared.

Moreover, if we consider the opinion polls for the European election, the voting intentions of ALDE members reached a record high. In a post-ideological era, people are searching for new faces and new ideas. And I’m sure that in many European countries (like Spain’s Ciudadanos ) many ALDE-party members will satisfy this need.

ALDE should collaborate and communicate not only with its members but also with those political parties that contains liberal idea in order to build a solid “liberal people’s house”. To do this, ALDE should for example talk with all political parties here in Italy that submitted liberal values in their political program,  either in the left for the pro-Europeanism or in the right for the tax cut.

What are the priorities to be addressed in your Constituency,  on which you will work in case of election?

My main activities will be to:

-Create a network: I’m member of the local committee of the – not yet officially founded – political party “+Europa”. In these months we’re trying to create a network of pro-european movements in order to organize meeting between the members of the associations and to share our different idea of Europe and liberal values.

In the same way the first thing I’d do is to get in touch with all ALDE Coordinators and IM of my area, meet them and discuss with them the best way to create events.

–  Organizing events: the goal of the first step is to achieve also events having as main topic Europe and its liberal values. These events would be an opportunity to let people who share the same ideas debate and study together. Furthermore, I’m convinced that this kind of meeting will bring involved people closer to ALDE and it will consequently increase the number of IMs.

FRANCESCO CONDO’

The result of the last Italian elections is part of a more generalized populist trend that affects all Europe. This trend has historical dimensions, since it has already changed the Zeitgeist, the spirit of our age, and risks reversing the path towards the open society that the Western countries have followed in the last decades.

In Italy as in the rest of the EU, populism is a consequence of a widespread sense of insecurity and fear that we can reduce to two main points:

1.      Insecurity related to personal safety: this kind of insecurity is mainly due to the attitude of the media, that usually prefer to report crime news in a sensationalistic way rather than on the basis of facts and figures (which show that in Italy violent crime has steadily decreased over recent years). In addition, this insecurity is fed by the rhetoric of the “invasion”, entailing an emergency and securitarian approach to migrations, rather than a structural and multidimensional one.

From this point of view, ALDE and the liberal-democratic forces should try to contrast catastrophism with facts and should base their communication on the positive effects that further European integration may have on security (e.g. through the exchange of best practices and by sharing intelligence services, anti-terrorism investigative police, border police, immigration policies).

2.      Economic insecurity resulting from the crisis of the recent years: two recent papers (this one  and this other one) show how populism is fuelled by economic insecurity and how much the vote for populist parties increased in the Eurozone regions where the impact of Chinese competition has been stronger. Therefore it is essential that the liberal democrats, now perceived as an expression of the elites of the main urban centres, try to root their presence:

a.       in the peripheral areas most affected by the crisis, where we should encourage a reconversion of the industrial and job environment of these areas. This is a very difficult task, because populist proposals are simpler and more easily understandable, but going back to the status quo ante countering globalization and free trade is not a solution that works.

b.      In the most productive and industrial areas: the liberal democratic forces should talk with the entrepreneurs and seek solutions to ensure that the institutions (from the European to the local level) don’t prevent but facilitate business.

Mentioning business brings me to the topic of the ALDE IM strategy and in particular to the mission that was submitted to our vote. I totally support all the points of the mission, but when I read the first drafts few months ago I didn’t realize that there is a missing bullet: the mission doesn’t mention the role of enterprises as engine of the economy and main driver for the creation of jobs and wealth. I hope that in the near future there will be room to add such a point.

Carrying on the work on the strategy together with the Steering Committee will be one of my priorities (from the internal point of view) if I am elected as coordinator of the IMs in North-Western Italy. In this regard, we might also discuss the tools to implement the strategy, including the convenience that ALDE IM local chapters may be organized as local associations (I still do not have a clear opinion in this regard). I would also like to work at the setting up of thematic groups with ALDE IMs of other regions and countries, in order to make more effective the contribution of the individual membership within ALDE.

GIOVANNI IANNELLO LEONE

 

4 march 2018 is gone and 23-26 may 2019 is coming. +Europa can be a new start only if Italian LibDems want it, but we need to go further than +Europa. We don’t need a parliamentary group separated from citizens and from a stable political activism. We need a modern and effective party for LibDems and allies. We need a new LiberalDemocratic party that brings together the various trends that enriches liberalism, the various stories and the common future of the Italian Liberal Democrats. We must work for this and ALDE IM can be very useful for that.
About my goals: proselytism, organisation, internal communications and starting to build ALDE Party-IM as political membership of a pan-European Party. Close collaboration among Italian and European coordinators is necessary. We can’t wait more time. Europe can collapse in a short while and we need EU as a large area of liberty, democracy and common citizenship, as well as a greener, fairer Europe that struggles for knowledge diffusion as a new citizens universal right.

FRANCESCO FRANCO

+ Europa was born only at the end of January 2018, very close to italian election so I think that with 900000 votes received and 4 MP elected we have to consider this not as a disappointing result but an extraordinary one! Where to go or start again?  From the request of the people for fresh air. In my opinion, + Europa have not emphasized enough the fact that its candidates were not, and are not, political professionals. ALDE has to do the same thing: taking inspiration from En marche, a small group of volunteers who spend time on their computer to learn about the problems of ordinary people. In additioncommunication have to be simple, even when we talk about complex problems and not immediately intuitive solutions. We have a lot to learn from communicators such as Grillo and Salvini: they use a simple language, easy to understand to common people. Or we may think to Jesus, another formidable communicator: he use parables, so we can use examples.

In order to prevent the creation of an anti-European majority in the European Parliament at the next EU elections, the role of ALDE should be to exercise a maieutic leadership of action on the M5S (which, like Zelig, is magmatic and takes the form of  various parties). It’s necessary to ensure that future MEPs join ALDE Group: Guy up. (Guy Verhofstadt had shown considerable foresight when a few months ago he managed to convince M5S ask for ALDE membership, a pity that such farsightedness was lacking for other liberal groups.

Not only in my constituency, but across the indivual membership, the priority should be to keep the forces in training even collecting the necessary signatures for  civil rights defence and initiatives, such the ICE one about art  7 of treaty which allows the illiberal democracies (such as Poland and Hungary) to be excluded from the right to vote in the European institutions.

+EUROPA, NO MORE SIGNATURES TO COLLECT: A GREAT VICTORY FOR LIBERALISM AND DEMOCRACY

In this contribution, our blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini, talks about some important news regarding +Europa, the new liberal democratic and pro-European Italian movement: it will be allowed to compete in the next political elections thanks to a gesture of democracy made by a very different party.

Liberalism in Italy is still alive. Not that it had ever died, for heaven’s sake, but certainly the long absence from Parliament of a true party that expresses liberal democratic and pro-European values ​​has, over the years, contributed a lot to lowering the awareness among Italian people of the importance of the EU for national growth, giving space to populists and neo-fascist drifts.

In a press conference, former European Commissioner Emma Bonino, and one of the leaders of +Europa, announced the new pro-European, federalist and liberal democratic Italian movement will not anymore have to collect signatures and will be officially allowed to compete in the next election race.  The news has enormous importance for European and Italian Liberalism because Italian voters now have the chance to choose a really liberal democratic proposal, the only real opposition to the racist and populist drift that is slipping country into chaos.

This was made possible thanks to Bruno Tabacci, a politician whose roots are very far from Emma Bonino’s.  Tabacci is founder and leader of Centro Democratico, a small Catholic-inspired party born of one of the many splits of the ancient Democrazia Cristiana. During the same press conference Tabacci announced that Centro Democratico will  join +Europa. Tabacci’s party is already represented in the Italian Parliament after the 2013 elections (it gained a seat as part of “Italia Bene commune” coalition), and this fact gives +Europa the right to compete in the next electoral round. According to Italian law, all the parties present in the current parliament are automatically allowed to compete in the next one, whether they present themselves alone or together with a group of parties under a common symbol and name.

Centro Democratico and Tabacci therefore become the fourth member of + Europa, alongside Radicali Italiani, Forza Europa and political association Movimenta.

Bruno Tabacci’s decision has great importance because it recognises two important aspects: firstly that Italy absolutely needs a really liberal democratic and europeist party (Partito Liberale Italiano choose to join the centre right side, together with populists and nationalists) and secondly that it is important that each party has the same chances to compete. Tabacci said: “I want my gesture to be considered a contribution to democracy. I decided to make the symbol of my party available for +Europa to recover a dimension of freedom that I consider fundamental. If there had not been Emma Bonino’s list we would all have been poorer”. This decision was really a great message of democracy: even if Radicali and CD share some challenges and topics, they are very far apart in some other areas. It must be said that in the 2014 European elections Centro Democratico appeared alongside  liberal democratic movements in Italy: the white and orange CD symbol was within the one of “Scelta Europea con Guy Verhofstadt” and Tabacci was also one of the unlucky candidates on the same list. Tabacci himself took part in the last pro-European meeting that was held in Rome and of which Liberal Words wrote: “It’s time to take a step towards democracy. This is why I was there, at a pro-European gathering in Rome – he said – Our different points of view in some topics are not a problem”.

Tabacci is the only politician who took concrete action to save the chance to give Italian voters the chance to choose a pro-European proposal.  Other politicians, both in centre-left and in the centre-right side, only expressed words of appreciation for Emma Bonino, but none of them gave any real help to reduce or avoid the collection of signatures. It was only thanks to an amendment within the budget law, after a letter written by  Emma Bonino, Forza Europa leader Benedetto Della Vedova and Radicali Italiani secretary Riccardo Magi to premier Paolo Gentiloni, that +Europa obtained permission to reduce the required number of signatures to be collected from 50.000 to 25.000. So now, no more signatures are needed. But both Radicali Italiani and Forza will remain committed together to fight the new electoral law, a fight for democracy: other lists in fact do still have the trouble of collecting signatures.

European liberalism can therefore hope to have its representatives in the Italian government, which is certainly a big step forward compared to the past. But it’s only now that the real battle begins.  Many people in Italy believe that + Europe may be the real surprise of the upcoming elections and that it can also attract the votes of some disgruntled people who in the past had supported the Democratic Party, especially if +Europa presents itself alone, without allies.

Emma Bonino is a widely respected politician and her battles have reached cross-party to create consensus among the various political affiliations. This is driving + Europa, that now seems much closer than before to reach 3% of voters, the minimum in order to elect their representatives in Parliament if they choose to go alone (while within a coalition it is sufficient to reach 1%) and that is why now the Democratic Party, until now very closed to discuss about an alliance,  reopened the dialogue in the search of a political agreement. The race to bring Europe back to the centre of Italian political debate has begun!

Emanuele Lombardini

“+Europa”: the new italian Liberal-Democratic challenge against populism

In this contribution, ALDE Individual Member and relevant blog coordinator Emanuele Lombardini speaks about the birth of ‘+ Europa’, a new list promoted by former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova, and the movement of Radicali Italiani. The list intends to constitute a common point of reference for Italian radical liberals, liberal-democrats and reformists alike. +Europa’s ambition is running for the political elections of 2018.

+Europa is an Italian liberal-democratic list which intends to offer an alternative to growing populism and represent the Italians voters who embrace the ambitious project of constructing the United States of Europe. Through +Europa, radical liberals and liberal-democrats are determined to regain the seats in the Italian Parliament that they have been missing for a long time. The promoters of +Europa are the historical leader of Radicali Italiani Emma Bonino, former EU Commissioner and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and founder of the pro- European Union movement ‘Forza Europa’; Andrea Mazziotti, current chairman of the Commission for Constitutional Affairs, formerly member of ‘Scelta Civica’ and now of ‘Civici e Innovatori; and, finally, the movement of Radicali Italiani led by secretary Riccardo Magi. On November 23rd, the presentation of +Europa, a list whose vision is eloquently conveyed by the ‘+E’ symbol with which it will compare on the voting papers, was held in Rome.

Riccardo Magi introduced the vision behind the list by explaining that “today’s distinctions are no longer between right and left, or between conservatives and reformists; but among those who believe that social and economic problems can be solved by closing within national borders and by resorting to neo-nationalism, and those who think that we must build an open society and re-launching the process of European integration.”. He went on to explain how the challenge implied in this vision is “fighting the clichés about Europe shared by most of Italian party leaders, according to which Europe is a ‘bad stepmother’.” Until those leaders will continue exploiting and disseminating these stereotypes, Magi concluded, “+Europa can only be and will remain an independent list. ” “The European Union is the only place where we want to stay”, added Emma Bonino, “since more Europe means more peace, more security, more rights, more growth, more culture, and more freedom.” She then reminded that the European Commission has always had solid arguments to criticize the management of Italian public finances, and that the ‘bonus policy’ promoted by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, as well as the agreement the current government made with Libya on migrants, were all serious mistakes. +Europa shall not be approached as the list of Radicali Italiani only though.  As Carmelo Palma, one of the early proponents of the list, explains, “The list represents all liberal-democratic, secular, pro-European Union and anti-populist Italian voters”. Those same voters were so far represented by a constellation of movements – like ‘Scelta Civica’ and ‘Fare per fermare il declino’ – who can now find, in +Europa, a common political platform.

One main obstacle to the parliamentary representation of +Europa exists though. The Italian electoral law requires, to any political movement not already represented in the Parliament, to collect a minimum number of validated signatures in each and all constituencies. For +Europa, this requirement comes down to collecting 50,000 signatures . That is why a campaign aimed at recruiting voters willing to undersign the list, as well as validating the signatures of others, was promptly launched by Radicali Italiani and by the several liberal associations that gravitate around +Europa. “It’s an uphill ride”, explains Carmelo Palma, “especially considering that due to the approval of the new electoral law in October 2017, all constituencies themselves shall be first formally constituted; only then, which means around mid-December, we could start with the collection of signatures. This means that we will have 45 days in total to collect 50,000 signatures throughout the whole country.” The stringency of this requirement has led Emma Bonino, Benedetto Della Vedova and Riccardo Magi to submit a formal request to Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to lower the quota of signatures necessary for presenting +Europa among all other candidate-lists. Whilst Gentiloni’s position in regard is yet unknown, liberal activists continue to campaign for empowering +Europa to run at the next political elections.

Emanuele Lombardini