Italy Just Threw Its Hat In The Ring

2016, you’re just all-round sucking. First, we had Brexit. Then, we had Trump being elected. Now, Italy has just voted No for a constitutional referendum, causing Matteo Renzi to step down.

While I am not surprised, I am incredibly pissed.

Usually, the Italian people are quite politically savvy. When I say that, I don’t mean that they make the right choices (never forget our own brand of Trump: Silvio Berlusconi), but rather I mean that many more people are politically informed, and vote, than you will find in many countries. While, for instance, you will find many more Americans being somewhat informed and/or invested in the stock market than you would find in other countries, you will also find the average Italian engaged in political debates not just about their own country, but having a rudimentary knowledge about the political processes of others as well.

Not this time. This time, the misinformation reeked.


Basically, the referendum was supposed to streamline the government: reduce the number of senators, and reduce the power of the individual states. Focusing on the reduction of the number and paychecks of senators alone should have guaranteed an overwhelming victory for the referendum. The problem was, most people had no idea what the referendum was about. In this shitshow, the referendum became a confidence vote in the Renzi Government.

This idea was initially spread by the Five Star Movement, but the blame does not lie entirely on their shoulders. Matteo Renzi himself botched the shit out of this, making it clear that he sucks at campaigning. First of all, he promised to resign if the No vote won, and that was his first mistake. But, worst of all, he himself put out the Basta un Sì campaign, which was filled with flowery “isn’t life so wonderful, let’s keep the status quo because it’s so great” ads.

Big. Fucking. Mistake. Italians are pissed, and things are not going well at all. Focusing on how great you are, feeding the idea that this is a confidence vote in your Government rather than focusing on reducing the number one thing that gets all Italians riled up, corrupt overspending politicians, is precisely what blew up the election in your stupid face.

Please click on the link above to see what I’m talking about, he really does have a stupid face, but I was willing to overlook that in lieu of what will happen next.

To be honest, I’m not surprised at the results of the vote, nor was I particularly enthusiastic about the referendum itself. It had its good sides, and its negative ones. What I’m pissed about is what happens next, which too many people were too busy expressing their frustration at the man to fully consider.

Renzi resigns. That has happened already. Italy takes a blow in confidence and stability, dragging the euro down with it as we go to an interim government. That has also already happened. Now, we need new elections.

The PD, or the center-left party, has already demonstrated that they cannot govern for shit. They went through three different Prime Ministers since winning the last elections, and the most recent one just resigned in disgrace. If people were going to vote for them, they wouldn’t have kicked their asses to the curb this time around.

The PDL, or the center-right party, is equally in the dumps. It is still the Berlusconi party, but he is far too old, and far too shamed to be winning any more elections, despite the fact that he still clings on. They do not have another charismatic figurehead to rally the voters, not with the Berlusconi shadow still looming over them. So, what does that leave?

That leaves the only other large political party: the Five Star Movement. The populist, Beppe Grillo-run Five Star Movement. Oh dear Thor.

Unlike many, I do not love nor hate the Five Star Movement. It is one of pure populism, so it is a very mixed bag ranging from ultra-left to ultra-right. Some people in there have good intentions, and some of them have ideas that I completely disagree with. They are neither fascists nor commies, the only thing that unites them is a strong dissent for the status quo and corruption. While that is a sentiment that I can get behind, there is one giant and inescapable problem.

They have no idea what the fuck they’re doing.

A country like Italy is a very hard country to govern. It is hopelessly corrupt and full of problems, and at the same time it is the 8th largest economy in the world. This is not a country that practically governs itself, and that you can simply ride along and learn as you go. This is not a country that you can experiment with and allow to go into bankruptcy with your ignorance, pulling down the EU with you. Keeping Italy from the edge of the precipice is hard enough, but also fixing its problems along the way would require copious amounts of political experience and savvy. Shouting and stomping around about corruption is all well and good, but you have to demonstrate that you know how to fix those things in a way that wont crash all of Europe, and the Five Star Movement simply does not inspire that sort of confidence.

But Italians are so pissed, and so fed up with the political class, that they just might do it. And that’s all we fucking need. Next we’ll see a Le Pen victory in France and we can all have a let’s-stand-in-a-circle-and-shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot party afterwards.

You might be able to tell that I’m a little pissed. I’ll update later with a Sunday Cooking post, just to clear my head a little bit.

Funnily enough, it’s about alcohol. I must have sensed I was going to need it yesterday.


  1. secondtofirstworld says

    I wish to give a word of experience on how I left behind a society, that is so immature in democratic traditions, it can’t choose otherwise, but support parties with strong leaders.

    In 2014, the current government, in its third, non-consecutive term in total had not proposed a referendum on reducing the number of representatives, they just went ahead and did it, with the merry thought they had 2/3rds of the mandates, going from 386 representative to 199.

    Now, they lost their 2/3rd, but most of the important laws remain on 2/3rds of mandates to be changed, so they still can do pretty much as they please. Like mandating government officials to hand out vouchers in 35 euro worth in person to every pensioner, covering for the expenses of security guards as well. It actually costs more, than just mailing them, but the guys in the propaganda ministry has to be paid for something. They’re populists, and not less corrupt as the former governments were.

    So, reducing the government when a) corruption is deeply rooted in society and b) your opponents are populists, is not a very good idea. I can speak from experience, that it doesn’t solve a thing. Furthermore, with a then-new law declaring that representatives can’t hold simultaneous political positions, like, say, a mayor, the new mayors are almost without exceptions the straw men of the former mayor now representative.

    No political reform can change a society, when the society is not ready or unwilling to change. Proponents of the yes vote should etch in their minds, that had the proposal won, Five Star, the Northern League or Berlusconi would have misused it to kingdom come. Remember when the latter pushed for legislation making him exempt from prosecution? He would have won in such a system. When it comes to populism, Western populists look toward Poland and Hungary, and how they could transform the status of the media and the state court in their favor, leading to situations, where, if you wish to blog in Italian, you’d have to register with the state media, and repeating a statement in context by anyone would make you liable for a libel suit.

    What is needed has to come from the ground up, not from top down, and through this lens, it’s a good thing Renzi lost.

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