As long as the present Constitution is in force, the representatives of the people are the deputies and senators. As regards the government which asks for their trust, its function is to serve the country and it must be exercised “with discipline and honor.”
These facts, with which the Prime Minister began his speech to the Chamber of Deputies on Monday (with the first enthusiastic applause coming from President Mattarella), might be seen, at first glance, as mere expressions of institutional courtesy. However, at the same time, the two leaders of the right-wing Lega-fascists were in the streets asking once again for “the people” to be given their due, accompanied by the usual salutes with right arms extended.
Their rabble-rousing is expected to recur in the coming months, with a full campaign of protests. As of now, they have only offered the country the spectacle of a bunch of sore losers. They were convinced they had Italy under their control. Now they find themselves in the opposition, and they’re angry about it.
We are now witnessing an unprecedented government alliance, which no one would have predicted just two months ago. There’s a minority in each of the parties of the coalition that are unhappy about the situation, criticizing it on several certainly delicate grounds. For all these reasons, it needs wisdom, calm, positive intentions, appropriate choices and farsightedness. All these elements were prominent in the Prime Minister’s speech, because Conte knows he has to deal with a complex situation.
Grillo’s followers and the PD have done more than just clash: they have hated each other for a long time, despite sharing a significant percentage of their constituents, and despite agreeing—even in the moments of head-on collision—on a number of goals that are important and necessary to initiate a change.
In Conte’s speech to the Chamber of Deputies requesting their vote of trust, the items of a social agenda of reforms took center stage: a new leaf will be turned on labor, on the sick economic system, on the environment, on common goods, and, most importantly, on immigration. One might say this is a very ambitious program.
However, if the government is able to immediately implement the first goal they have promised—public kindergartens for all—this would already be a truly reformist “revolution.”
In any case, restoring the democratic debate, removing the venom from the political climate and having civil discussions on the projects would require a change of pace, for everyone. Including for the media. Hence Conte’s invitation—which we fully share—to put an end to “new selfishness and old grudges,” because there is a new opportunity here. And if we think about Hannah Arendt’s definition of prejudice as “a form of thought that looks towards the past,” we can quickly understand that this wasn’t just a clever turn of phrase, a rhetorical device, or propaganda for fussy political palates.
In the end, a speech is a speech, and Conte’s was not so remarkable as to join the ranks of the greatest speeches ever made by statesmen. However, it still deserves attention beyond the context of the vote of confidence. The two initial paragraphs and the conclusions, with a strong appeal to his ministers to work with seriousness and sobriety, without “unnecessary proclamations” and “bombastic statements,” represent a real breakthrough: this would mean, finally, an end to political and government representatives behaving like prima donnas or acting like big shots on social media.
Now, with the M5S-PD-LeU government, a new political season is opening up. It will be littered with obstacles, conflicts, rivalries and missteps. It will not be easy to achieve the intended goals—also because the budget will be put together on the basis of the economic conditions, which are difficult. However, from Conte down to the last member of Parliament supporting the alliance, everyone knows we are dealing with something more here than a simple wager.
The right has conquered significant parts of society and of the national territory, which must not be underestimated. It will be precisely in these parts of society and in these territories that the government forces will have the task—difficult, but not impossible, and certainly a top priority—to recapture the many votes lost, to persuade the doubters and the perplexed.
For everyone, this will be an intense struggle: difficult, challenging, with an uncertain outcome. But it will also be exhilarating. And we will also be giving our best on the playing field.
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