Loredana De Petris is the leader of the Mixed Group, the Italian Parliament’s political grab bag, which represents a number of minor parties across the political spectrum. But in the country’s recent political climate, this group has had greater influence as traditional parties fail to persuade the electorate and high profile leaders, including the president of the Chamber of Deputies, belong to the group.
We spoke with De Petris about the dynamics and consequences of the March 4 election.
Senator Loredana De Petris, is Liberi e Uguali willing to enter into a single-issue government with Renzi and Forza Italia?
We are absolutely against, and unwilling to enter, any grand coalitions, and that has been at the core of our entire campaign.
But on Wednesday, LeU president Grasso said that if President Mattarella were to ask you to join a government for the purpose of passing a new election law, you wouldn’t say no.
We are not willing to form any single-purpose government. In any case, the Parliament actually passes the election laws. Our party was born to be a barrier against grand coalitions, not a group that facilitates them. We could not in any way support Gentiloni: our whole program is based on a strong break with his government. And it is of no use to try to present it now as the “humane version” of the PD government. Others have said they would be willing, such as Emma Bonino—a position that is now in fashion, even in certain left-wing circles.
As Gentiloni says, “a government governs.” If you agreed to enter a government, it couldn’t really be a single-purpose one to pass the new electoral law.
Do I need to say it again? We are not willing to support any “Gentiloni II” government. It’s a completely different thing, however, to ask: do we push for snap elections, or do we make an attempt to pass a new electoral law? We’ll make an attempt. Otherwise, we are also planning to sue against the election law passed in 2017.
There are also different opinions within LeU regarding a possible government with the 5 Star Movement: Grasso says it’s possible. Boldrini is against it. What about you?
We are on the same side in some fights, such as the one for a basic income for citizens. Do they want to repeal the Jobs Act? So do we. But for Di Maio, the estate tax is an illiberal notion. Nor can we overlook their positions on immigration. On such issues, we are incompatible. So our votes might be there for certain points in their program. But we are talking about some points. Not about a government together with them.
While we’re talking about values, the 5 Star Movement was not in the streets with you in the march against fascism. What does that mean?
That they’re all over the place. They are cultivating the ambiguity of a post-ideological position to set up a vote-attracting machine, getting a few voters from here, a few from there. They are forgetting that their own Carta di Firenze (Florence Charter) is anti-fascist. On this matter, we are on opposite sides.
What do you think of the list of ministers that they sent by email to the president?
Pure propaganda, in support of the claim that they have the votes necessary to govern. Right now, many parties are playing such games. The Democratic Party, for example, is playing the broken record of the need to cast a “useful vote,” which paradoxically gives strength to the notion that the 5 Star Movement is the only barrier against the rise of the Right, as there is the widespread perception that the Democratic Party is out of the game in most of the single-member constituencies. I would advise the Democratic Party to stop.
If the Democratic Party is out of the game, what is LeU’s strategy?
To reconstruct a left-wing project. After the vote, there might be games being played inside the PD as well, with other possible splits. But the real point is to restore the confidence of a large part of the population in the Left, who are now feeling betrayed by it.
The LeU started with a strong position in the polls. Has something stopped working in the meantime?
We knew it was going to be a difficult election campaign, playing out on the basis of who makes the most outrageous promises. The serious proposals, such as ours, risk being overlooked. Almost no one speaks about labor issues, or about the real problems of a country in difficulty. But if we’re talking about the polls, I still remember those at the end of 2016 which had “Yes” winning in the referendum. There are still many who are undecided. We are speaking to them. And we are speaking to those who are angry about the “Buona Scuola” school reforms and the Jobs Act: with us, you can give a modern, ecologist Left a chance.
You have said that after March 4, the LeU will continue. Are you serious about that, or is it just an answer to those who are already talking about future splits?
We are serious. Because if we want to build a strong project, rooted and of the Left, we need to say so right now. And we need to begin putting down roots, hoping that it will be a point of attraction for those who haven’t been with us up to now.
About that: how much is the list of Potere al Popolo, to your left, affecting you?
I’m sorry that we have been divided. Each is playing their own game. But we should all try to reinforce the idea that this country and its workers cannot afford a Left that is unnecessary or unessential. I hope that we can mend the broken ties, at least with some. There is much turmoil in Europe: think about Corbyn, or Podemos. It’s just not plausible that the Italian Left should be destined only for small things, or caught in its eternal divisions.