Giovanni Battista Ponzetto | August 1st, 2022
Why trusting MSM without removing spin from Italy can mislead, since while many visit Italy, few foreigners actually take its pulse. It’s an ornate version of the old maps reporting “Hic sunt leones” on areas in Africa which were quite unexplored.
Since Italian Premier and former ECB President Mario Draghi resigned, only to stay on until the next election in a kind of wide latitude caretaker role, Italian parties and media have started electioneering in earnest. In fact, due to quirks in our strange electoral law, called Rosatellum after the politician who was instrumental in designing it, the timetable is quite accelerated since the majority premium in the first past the post quota is assigned to the COALITION which gets more votes in the relevant section. This means that on top of the present musical chairs of representatives jumping ship from one party to another, the parties, some of which are newly minted, have to find common ground in time to deposit common names for the uninominal seats, with a deadline of August 14th for the deposit of the list simbols and August 22nd for the full list of candidates. That, added to the reduction of available seats in the future parliament from over 900 to 600, is a rather significant lowering of the water level in the piranha tank.
But how did we get here?? That, ladies and gentlemen, is where I was spectacularly wrong.
I earned accolades from people I know and esteem for correctly predicting that President Mattarella would contrive to get himself elected for a further term, something not explicitly forbidden by Italian constitution, but frowned upon and with only one instance in which it had happened. Since Mattarella had displeased Draghi, who through agents had made it abundantly clear that he wanted a change of address from Palazzo Chigi to the Quirinale, his ascendancy over Draghi was contested but in my opinion assured. Mattarella after all never tried to stem the incessant use of legislation by decree, an instrument which in Constitutional law is described as an exceptional instrument with strict conditionalities, but in reality used very frequently and in open defiance of articles of the Costitution describing it. In fact, on the day when Premier Draghi went to meet President Mattarella in order to tender his resignations, he had just WON his 56th confidence vote in parliament, and had enough parties proclaiming their continued confidence to continue on as premier with a reduced yet comfortable parliamentary majority. By the way, among the parties declaring their support were both Salvini’s Lega and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. Draghi’s rationale for leaving was that since his government had started with the support of Movimento 5 Stelle, largely a spent force now, but with a significant number of representatives in the outgoing parliament, he felt it was an “all or nothing” proposition allowing him to force Mattarella’s hand and leave.
And that was my mistake. I thought that Mattarella, using pressure from the financial markets and the international crisis, could prevail upon Draghi to remain the further eight months or so to the end of this parliamentary term with full powers. Mattarella also had a powerful carrot in the shape of an inordinate number of postings to important places in government controlled entities and firms. In fact, before the lightning struck, one of the talks of the town in Rome was that the government would “encourage” the current heads of the Bank if Italy and/or CONSOB, the stock exchange and securities regulator, to step down ahead of time in order to have those posts filled by “politically reliable” figures related to the parties supporting Draghi and/or technocrats. Draghi sidestepped that adroitly by indicating in the “consiglio dei ministri” directive concerning the powers of the caretaker government that the caretaker administration indeed CAN proceed to issue such personnel indication, albeit only if it cannot be posponed to the incoming government due to time or urgency contraints. At a pinch he could offer also that by the end of the Parliament’s term, Mattarella himself might step down and let Draghi have a go at the Quirinale, which he would have very good odds of finally occupying. Instead, Draghi wouldn’t be budged, even after the international press turned up the heat implying that without him, continued access to the EU PNRR funding was in danger.
So there I was, predicting a nothingburger, and got served a whopper, double fries and a KFC bucket. Oh well.
That started an extrordinary flurry of media spinning the likes of which would make Peloton stock popular again. People far and wide have been told in no uncertain terms that Putin had a hand in this, through Salvini. Now did Putin actually attempt to do that? Well, it is indeed possible. But did that possible attempt directly cause the downfall of Draghi’s government. Well, on that, the answer is “no”. And it would remain “no” even with written confirmation by Putin. Just to be clear:
Of course feel free, nay ENCOURAGED by me to fill point 5 with whatever explanation you want. Point 1 to 4, however, are facts that can be independently verified, and there also I encourage everyone to do so..
The crisis started in fact from the Five Star movement, which refused to vote yes on the confidence vote on the so called “decreto aiuti” (help decree) since it contained some measures M5S traditionally opposed like building combined energy / trash incineration plants. Already bellyaching after a string of parliamentary defections and facing a long and hard parliamentary campaign, former Premier and M5S leader Conte bet that sitting out a vote would allow the movement to regain some veneer of its former “green – red” neoluddite credentials in order to revive a popularity largely lost in the polls during its governing stint. After all, it’s not that Draghi actually needed their votes to pass the decree.
My gut instinct also says that he could “sell” that idea to Draghi and PD since most of the lost votes of M5S in polling do not go to others, they simply stay at home, so a rogue M5S could help the left stem what on today’s poll numbers risks being a rout. But notwithstanding the fact that Draghi throughout his whole career proved his loyalty to the creed of the left wing part of the political aisle, to the point that in my imagination he has been the true PD Party secretary since 2012, he seems indeed in a bit of a rage, and after all, why stay for what promises to be a very difficult winter? It’s not that his chances for promoting reforms have improved in the year he has been premier, provided that the imaginary Draghi who is a pro market reform champion ever existed, a thing about which we have zero prove for and many against.
That, by the way, explains the relatively subdued reaction of the spread: he is still caretaker and it’s business as usual. The point is that his whole government has been “business as usual” to the point where ITA, previously known as Alitalia, is lobbying for a 400 million EUR cash infusion and an extension fo the deadline for its sale to suitors. What a difference a year make (i.e., none). So, Italy’s fate looks much like the immortal words of the Bard, who a talented English teacher inspired me to learn by heart:
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
who struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
and then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
The last thing I expected when he taught me that was that I could be that idiot.