This Friday, the La Pietra Dialogues team hosted a day-long conference analyzing the Italian Elections of 2013. Moving through various panels, the conference assessed polls, statistics and opinions before the elections, comparing them to the results – or lack thereof – divulged several days ago.
The conference kicked off its first panel with a basic tutorial on Italian elections, chaired by Alessandro Chiaramonte (University of Florence and NYU). Lorenzo de Sio (LUISS Guido Carli) carefully explained that the Italian electoral system was based upon symmetrical bicameralism –an agreement between the House and the Senate on who won – and upon a strong majoritarian element since the start of the Second Republic in 1994.
“The leader of the winning coalition was elected the Prime Minister,” he said. “But in the Senate it is basically a lottery because it is truly unpredictable. To some extent, it is a mess.”
The complication in this recent election, however, was that the top three percentages (Bersani, Berlusconi and Grillo) had only slightly higher numbers than one another. No one had the absolute majority because there were three coalitions that almost tied. Instead of having a two bloc system, a wildcard party threw the numbers off so that there is no clear winner by law yet.
De Sio says, “Monti is regarded as one of the losers, with a little over 10% of votes.”
The general surprise by the speakers and attendees was that Beppe Grillo managed to receive so many votes and that Berlusconi somehow regained some of the confidence that people lost in him. The polls before the election clearly showed different results than the statistics from the elections and, as Cristiano Vezzoni (University of Trento) put it, “What you get right; you get by chance [in the polls]. These expectations are also colored with your partisanship and your hope.”
The PD, according to Vezzoni, has demonstrated lack of competitiveness due to their overconfidence. According to polls early on in the election, the PD had over a 50% chance of winning the 2013 elections – making Bersani and his party disregard the need to declare clear objects in order to attract new voters and keep their stable ones. The speaker’s perspective was that neither of the most popular parties realized that the electorate was changing and young generations were quickly replacing the older voters.
Elisabetta Gualmini then spoke specifically about Beppe Grillo and the activist’s role in the campaign in which he did surprisingly well. His political approach, according to the University of Bologna Professor, is not a random project but rather “absolutely convincing that his is a normal party”. The former comedian’s new party is considered the party of moral indignation, for those who are tired of the same politics and want something new. The younger generation of voters particularly seems to appreciate his anti-establishment vibes towards political systems and in the economy. Gualmini classified his as a populist and cross-cutting party with no hesitation. There is no doubt Grillo is very politically savvy. However, she warns, his party is “completely naïve” and must now face the tricky transition from local to national issues – if they are to govern the country.
The second panel, headed by Cristian Vaccari (University of Bologna and NYU) discussed the relationship between media and the campaign of the main candidates. Chris Hanretty (University of East Anglia) opined that “it was a rather disappointing campaign in the media. What might have made a difference was to see a debate between the leaders”. The Movimento 5 Stelle, led by Beppe Grillo, rarely appeared on the media, leading Hanretty to ponder if Italian elections are becoming less and less television elections.
Marco Cacciotto (University of Milan) then took over, explaining that many of the candidates chose the wrong campaigns for their message. Mario Monti “tried to humanize a leader who was a technocrat”, which Cacciotto called the wrong approach. “Bersani ran as an inevitable winner and did not give the people a strong reason to vote for him”, he says. He closed his lecture by saying that “Berlusconi ‘got short’ of winning the Chamber and that is the real surprise”.
Marco Mazzoni (University of Perugia) added that politicians are often treated as celebrities and that “in the very same way as other Western political leaders, Italian politicians’ private lives have become politically relevant” in pop culture.
After a short but delicious lunch in the beautiful Villa Sassetti rooms, the conference resumed with panel three: Nicolò Conti (Unitelma Sapienza and NYU), Maurizio Cotta (University of Siena), Danilo di Mauro (EUI), and Claudius Wagemann. These speakers discussed the relationship between Italy and the rest of Europe, focusing on the effect of the European economic crisis on the trust Italians place in the European Union.
The last panel focused on the future of the Italian Political system and questioned whether these elections were the beginnings of a Third Republic in Italy, or simply a bump in the Second Republic. Chaired by Roberto D’Alimonte (LUISS and NYU), the discussion also counted on the inputs of Carlo Fusaro (University of Florence), Leonardo Morlino (LUISS Guido Carli), and Luca Verzichelli (University of Siena).
A concluding round-table discussion succeeded the last Panel, where many questions were answered about the future of Italian politics, the changes the country needed and the hope for a better economy with a new government – whichever that may be.
After the conference, the speakers and a few guests attended a nice dinner, discussing the huge success that was the Italian Post-Elections Conference of 2013.