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Women in power, the meeting of the Italy that (doesn't) change

First confrontation between Meloni and Schlein: on the table the choice between premierate and mayor of Italy, the institutional reform that comes in handy to talk about something else. As always


There was a happy period at the end of the Second Republic when the term “benaltrismo” was coined, who knows by which politician or commentator, referring to the skilful art of referring to something else used to divert attention from the “here and now”  to focus instead on “maybe in 10 years”. A refined strategy that makes it possible to avoid addressing the immediate and concrete issues and instead devote time, space and media attention to lofty projects that are as distant as they are distant in time, for the success of which no one will ever be called to account.

The recent meetings between the President of the Council of Ministers and party representatives fall squarely into this category. If the meeting with PD secretary Elly Schlein attracted attention and curiosity due to the contingency of two women leading parties and holding positions of responsibility - a rather unusual event in Italy - the topic of disagreement seems to be even more enticing: institutional reforms.

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Suddenly the form of government of the country has become a priority, as has the construction of the Ponte sullo Stretto, another fantastic arrow in the Benaltrist bow. In both cases, it may take three or four years to decide whether a premierate, the German model or the Mayor of Italy is preferable, whether there should be one or two spans, whether the pylons should be floating or flying. Anyway, when the effects of both choices are seen in 10 years' time, no one will remember who wanted them. And even voters with an elephant's memory will be able to do little, since the politicians will have already moved on to other endeavours.

Be that as it may, the focus must now be on institutional reforms. Usually this strand is tackled in the wake of the need for stability, which also includes a nice chapter on electoral law. The high-level conferences have already started, with renowned scholars and university professors spending endless hours quoting experience, precedents and complex institutional architectures. But to no avail. Because the need to be pandered to is not, as it has not been in previous legislatures, to ensure a better government for Italy. The objective, to be pursued perhaps through a Bicameral or other Palace alchemy, is that whoever holds the majority today may find it less difficult to keep it tomorrow. Whether the system hypothesised and put in the pipeline to become operational in two or three legislatures really works is only a detail. And who will be in the majority in 10 years' time will decide how to deal with it.

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It is no coincidence that the protagonists of the era in which it was claimed that Italy was ready for bipolarism and that two camps (with accompanying institutional reforms carried out on purpose) were sufficient have vanished, perhaps swept away by the political wreckage of the PDL and the PD. But, today as then, instead of raising fears about the existence of a secret plan to allow the return of dictatorship or to give space to these “mass distraction reforms” it would probably be more useful, for the institutional actors of weight, to avoid giving any support to certain institutional digressions by calling instead on the parties that have obtained the trust of the majority of Italians to demonstrate that they have deserved it.