Sunday, March 04, 2018

Italy Voted Today


Luigi de Maio's Five Star Party looks like it will be the biggest in the new parliament

Last week, Alan Grayson gave us a look at an Italian populist leader, Cola Di Rienzo, who ruled Rome, briefly in the 1300s. John Oliver brought Italian politics up to date with a few minutes on the chaotic election that culminated today after a divisive, angry and unsatisfying campaign. Voters are saying they were choosing the lesser evil from a political class that is not just uninspiring but out of touch with everyday Italians and corrupt. The lvoter turnout was lower. We may not know for weeks if anyone can form a government but exit polls show the right-wing coalition slightly ahead. (Note: Italian exit polls are notoriously inaccurate.) A hung parliament is almost certain.

A couple of days ago Grayson attempted to explain why Italian politics can be so zany these days and how "what is happening there has interesting implications for what is happening here." His perspective:
The leading party also is the newest party, the Five Star Movement.  5* was founded by a brilliant Italian comedian, Beppe Grillo, using social media only. The five stars refer to the five main issues for the movement: universal public water (apparently, this is controversial in Italy; here in the United States, Fox would call it a government takeover of the faucets); universal free internet access; sustainable transport (meaning renewable energy for vehicles); sustainable development; and environmentalism. This is, in essence an anti-Establishment "Green" party, and it might become the first ever to win a national election in Europe. It's at 25%-30% in the polls.

The party in second place is very similar to our Democratic Party, a modestly liberal party with substantial internal conflicts. Remarkably, it is called the Democratic Party. It's scoring 20%-25% in the polls. Desperate to come up with something to appeal to the voters that doesn't involve raising taxes or spending much money, the Democratic Party is proposing a new government program to encourage Italians under the age of thirty to stop living with their parents. It is unclear whether this is intended to help Italian twenty-somethings, or the parents who can't stand to live with them any longer. (I'm guessing the latter.)

The party in third place is called "Go Italy!," seriously, and it is the plaything of three-time Prime Minister and reputed statutory rapist Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi was Trump before Trump was Trump. (Google "bunga-bunga," and you'll see what I mean.) Berlusconi, a convicted felon, is ineligible to serve again as Prime Minister, but he's not going to let a little thing like that stop him. His big idea is tax breaks for pet owners because, as he points out, most wives would rather sleep with their dogs than with their husbands. (He really said that.  It's unclear whether he learned it from his wife.)

The party in fourth place used to be called the Northern League, but that was too geographical, so now it's called just the League. It is the only party making serious policy proposals, albeit nutty ones. The League wants to have referenda on Italy changing its currency, and dropping out of the European Union. This is Italy's version of "build a wall, and keep the Muslims out." Needless to say, the League's leader is a bigly fan of Donald Trump.

The party in fifth place is the neo-Communists. So it follows that the party in sixth place is the neo-Fascists.

How, you may wonder, can Italian politics be so vapid? So pococurante? (That is, in fact, a word.)

Here is the answer.

Everyone in Italy has universal healthcare. That healthcare is free.

Public colleges in Italy cost around $1000 each year. Private colleges start at around $7000. (My daughter's tuition at Columbia this year, by comparison, is $62,000.)

Workers in Italy get 30 paid holidays each year.

Not only can you get paid sick leave in Italy, but as of last October, you can get paid sick leave when your dog is sick.

You see where I'm going with this?

Italian politics can afford to be loco in the coco, because Italians already have employed the political system to provide a decent life for everyone. When you're debating a tax break for pets, it's pretty clear that your basic needs have been met.

Here, less so.

Labels: , ,


At 6:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Early reports are that the neo-fascists are winning in Italy. Here we go again!

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is so galling to see these other countries around the world providing the basic necessities and also many things that make peoples' lives better and our country has to go to battle to provide people with a decent and safe life. Sickening to see these republicans deny people what we all deserve. Why can't the voters see what they are doing? Disgusting.


Post a Comment

<< Home