There’s always an election going on somewhere: the Italian legislature has passed a new electoral law, paving the way for an election next year, very probably in March.
The new system is a version of the additional member system used in Scotland and Wales, and further afield in New Zealand. (In the Italian case, 36 per cent of the seats are elected by first-past-the-post and the remainder through the proportional system.)
The new law is a major setback for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which has few possible allies in a coalition and has ruled out forming one. That advantages the centre-left Democrats and the older parties of the right – Forza Italia and Lega Nord – who have more options as far as coalition negotiations go.
In any case, it may mean that it will soon be time for the Democrats’ current PM, Paolo Gentiloni to give way to the party’s leader and his predecessor as prime minister, Matteo Renzi. (You may remember Renzi as the politician who quipped that the difference in politics was “not a question of being Blairite or anti-Blairite, it’s a matter of understanding whether you want to go to elections like you go to the Olympics, to win or to [merely] participate.”)
Renzi was forced into a form of temporary retirement after he made his previous electoral proposals, which he was forced to take to a referendum thanks to deadlock in the legislature, a “back me or sack me” affair. When he made the pledge, his popularity was sky-high so it wasn’t quite as stupid as it looked with hindsight. Nonetheless, it was always pretty silly, and his enemies, both in his own Democratic Party, and outside it, took full advantage to defeat his proposals and force him out.
The polls put the Democrats and Five Star – founded by controversial comedian Beppe Grillo – roughly level. A lot could happen between now and March, but it’s worth noting, however briefly, that the proposals that Renzi torched his premiership for were basically the polar opposite of the ones passed yesterday. And while, yes, hindsight is 20:20, don’t rule out the possibility that the recklessness that put his career into cryogenic suspension might bring about its final end sooner rather than later.