Crises can be more or less dramatic but the Byzantine liturgies of Italian politics and the tactical games that accompany those protocols never change. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, after pocketing in the Senate 173 votes in a ridiculous vote of confidence on the budget law, climbed the Hill to resign.
He also delivered into the hands of the head of State, on behalf of the Democratic Party, a proposal that everyone knows does not even have a thousandth chance of being accepted. Renzi will give Parliament the choice between going to elections immediately after the pronouncement of the Constitutional Court or let the Legislature go on. But in the latter case, “the responsibility must be borne by everyone.” The majority must in fact be extended to other political forces.
The consultations began at 6 p.m. Thursday, following the traditions of the presidents of the chambers, and will end on Saturday afternoon. The last delegation will be the Democratic Party, but Secretary Renzi will not participate, only Vice Premier Lorenzo Guerini and the leaders of the House and Senate. They will debate about the future, but the Renzi proposal will only be a waste of time. No one will respond positively, as Renzi already knows. The proposal is presented to be rejected and thus open the door to the real option the resigning leader wants: to remain in the same seat he already occupies — in other words, to be reappointed and succeed himself.
The battle plan was deployed by the usual hawks, led by Maria Elena Bochi and Luca Lotti, in a dinner with 23 other members of the Iron Guard, which was reported Wednesday by the Huffington Post. Why leave the government, thus losing control over its duration, choosing not to manage the election campaign and maybe even having to give up the vice premier position occupied by Lotti, just when the bell rings for a large bunch of excellent nominations? The only problem is Renzi’s doubt, who is aware, even if only partially, that he’s listening to the same strategists who have led the referendum war.
Since they are aware of the boss’ hesitation, the conspirators have fielded a second hypothesis: a friendly government, or rather more than a friend. Therefore neither the Senate President Grasso, who is uncontrollable, nor Franceschini, who may be backstabbed at Nazareno, the headquarters of the Democratic Party, and why tempt Dario by putting the dagger in his hands? So, the obvious choice would be Gentiloni, with his faithful Lotti immovable.
Put that way, though, Renzi would rather gamble on himself, and not just to have the confidence to take the government off oxygen at will. As confessed a few days ago, he fears the “cone of shadow” — being away from the limelight, no longer always under the TV cameras, unable to claim successes and triumphs. He does not want to be forgettable.
There is a third consideration that drives Renzi to do the opposite of what he had promised. After losing the government, he would go back to his position as Secretary of the party full-time. He does not know how to do it and he does not want to. So the temptation is strong but in the end, last night, the downside seemed to prevail and Renzi seemed more oriented toward the nomination of Gentiloni, with the firm order to pull the plug of the leader’s command.
There are two obstacles to overcome: the first is the green light of the Hill. There certainly would be an intact majority for the reappointment. Renzi did not need to resign. The truth is that his stay at Palazzo Chigi would help everyone except himself. But even with Gentiloni, it is difficult to imagine that the Quirinale palace would see the problems.
The second obstacle — in both cases — is less easily surmountable. Sergio Mattarella not only wants a government in office until the pronouncement of the Supreme Court on Italicum. He has made it clear he wants a “harmonization” between the law for the Chamber and the one for the Senate. Giorgio Napolitano, already a high protector of the outgoing prime minister, with whom he spoke yesterday by telephone about the leadership of the Democratic Party, thinks the same: “The vote is a technically incomprehensible proposal.”
But Renzi insists on the race at breakneck speed. He posted on his e-news a challenge to the head of state, posted just before the direction. He writes: if the institutional government is rejected by the opposition parties, we must “vote with the current electoral law, as amended by the Court.” The basis for a clash of the first magnitude are all there, and will not diminish, even if Renzi settles to give his position to some “friend.”
But we must see whether the contenders will want to clarify right away or wait for the January judgment of the consultation, as it is more likely. For now at the top of Renzi’s list, in fact, there is a showdown with the minority of the Democratic Party, while on Mattarella’s list, the number one item is to solve the crisis as soon as possible. The rest will have to wait until the end of January.