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!