All about Italian elections

Kindly translated from Sur les élections italiennes by Anne-Marie de Grazia

Hardly were the results of the Italian elections known that commentaries went full steam but with more heat than light. The French government too rushed to issue a communiqué in order to minimize the importance of the results. It might have been better to face reality head on, be it only to learn its lessons. But we prefer to shut ourselves up in an attitude of denial, with the help in this instance of a part of the French press. Hadn’t one sung enough the praise of the leader of the Democratic Party, Luigi Bersani, or of the technocrat turned politican, Mario Monti. Yet it sufficed to get out of the Parisian bubble and to have a look at the Italian, British or American press to get an inkling of what was going to happen. But there is no reality outside the pronouncements of some cenacles… So, let’s look a little bit at these elections, and at the results, and let’s try to extract from them the important points.

The first point to emerge of these results is obviously the extent of the disavowal of austerity policies inspired by Brussels and Berlin, but also, we must remember too, by Paris. Parties defending these policies represent only 40% of the votes (the left PD of Bersani 29,5% and the centre-right alliance of Mario Monti 10,5%). The parties refusing these policies, and turning down in reality the very logic of the Euro, have won over 54% of suffrages (the PDL of Silvio Berlusconi 29% and the M5S of Beppe Grillo 25.4%). One couldn’t imagine a more scathing refutation of those who presented the Monti government as a “savior” of Italy. The multiplication of taxes, often felt to be unjust, the drastic budget cuts to which hospitals, schools but also the pension system fell victim, the scandalous payment delays by the State, largely explain this situation. The French press may expatiate about the Berlusconi “machine,” it cannot hide forever the fact that if a politician who was dismissed under jeers comes back quasi in triumph it has to be because of a massive rejection of the policies put in place by his successors. Moreover, this ready-made discourse cannot explain the success of the Movement of the 5 Stars (M5S) of Beppe Grillo.

This brings us to the second important point: the obvious errors of the pollsters and the exit polls estimations. Two parties have been the “victims” of these errors: the PD, credited with over 33% and finally ending up at 29.5% (a difference of about 5 points) and the center-right alliance of Mario Monti credited by estimates of 12% and obtaining in reality only 10.5%. Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL appears as relatively stable. It is therefore the M5S which benefitted from these errors, having been credited of between 18% and 20% and winning in reality over 25% of suffrages.  One must point out up front that these elections were the first general elections were the M5S was presenting itself. The task of pollsters and forecaster was therefore a most difficult one. But, if one considers these numbers, and if one admits that a certain number of voters of the M5S (1 in 5) did not wish to express their vote in the exit polls, it means that former voters of the left as well as of the center right have moved over to the movement of Beppe Grillo. This hypothesis is comforted by the remarkable stability between forecasts and actual results for the PDL, which confirms the fact that Silvio Berlusconi is indeed recognized as the head of his formation and that his voters are largely accepting of his discourse. The vote for the PDL has not been an ashamed one, quite in the contrary, but one with which its voters were clearly at ease. This means that one must look essentially to the left (and secondarily to the center right) to find the real pool of the forces of the M5S.

This brings us then to the third point: the Italian voters wanted to send a message and they have used the means that were at their disposal. One can endlessly elaborate about the Italian electoral system, which is indeed more “Byzantine” than Roman; one can make any and all possible and imaginable commentaries about the rhetoric of Berlusconi, beset  with scandals and a survivor of bunga-bunga, as well as about that of Beppe Grillo. In the absence of parties that were more respectable, the Italians have voted for those who seemed to them less harmful, in other words, those least engaged in the nefarious policies of austerity and least submissive to the orders of Brussels and to the diktats of Berlin. We are in the presence of a structured protest far more than of a a simple “protest vote.” The fact that the M5S has won some cities in the last municipal elections should have alerted observers. We are in fact witnessing the beginning of a process of entrenchment of the M5S.

The consequences for the coalition of the left represented by the PD are important. The erosion of this latter party in the latest surveys, then in the results, is particularly striking. Credited with 35% less than a month before the election, it finds itself finally at 29.5%. The problem resides in the intenable position that it has adopted: to defend an “austerity with a human face.” The Italians have intuitively understood that as far as the human face was concerned, it would fail to materialize, and that they would be stuck with the austerity. But this sets the “social-democratic forces” in Southern Europe before a redoubtable problem. Their discourse no longer has any credibility in the economic landscape which is the one of the Eurozone. One must either adopt a traditional rightist discourse, or break away from the pipe dreams of a Federal Europe; there are no half-way measures possible.

Kirk Douglas SpartacusThis brings us then to the fourth point. These elections were, as said, a slap in the face of technocracy. In this regard we’ll recall what we said in a note dedicated to the question of the “democratic order,” but also of Dictatorship and Tyranny: “the democratic order allows to think through the new forms of tyranny (independent agencies), to name them precisely (the ECB, the “Troïka,” the devolution of the principles of the State to the European Union outside the respect of the rules of devolution), but also to point towards different paths of thinking that are possible that would not end up in usurpations of sovereignty. The democratic order allows us thus to refute the delusions of a technicization of political choices and to give back all its importance to politics itself. It allows us to rethink Tyranny, and as a consequence, legitimate rebellion.” It is indeed a legitimate rebellion we have witnessed in these elections. It is advisable to become aware of it.

Citation

Jacques Sapir, “All about Italian elections”, article published on the blog Russeurope 26/02/2013, URL: http://russeurope.hypotheses.org/949

Jacques Sapir

Ses travaux de chercheur se sont orientés dans trois dimensions, l’étude de l’économie russe et de la transition, l’analyse des crises financières et des recherches théoriques sur les institutions économiques et les interactions entre les comportements individuels. Il a poursuivi ses recherches à partir de 2000 sur les interactions entre les régimes de change, la structuration des systèmes financiers et les instabilités macroéconomiques. Depuis 2007 il s'est impliqué dans l’analyse de la crise financière actuelle, et en particulier dans la crise de la zone Euro.

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