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Commentary. The Italian Democratic Party has self destructed under Matteo Renzi. If voter turnout for party leadership elections falls by half, his alleged wave of support could pull him down and the party with it.

The wave could become an undertow

They’re beating the drums on Renzi’s wide lead in the polls for the leadership of the Democratic Party. But if the propaganda looked instead at the real numbers for the vote, the result suggests a more cautious and much less flattering prospect — not only for the former prime minister and would-be party secretary, but for the party in general.

Less than half of the party members did not vote. Renzi may be the leader of the pack, but there are so many, inside and outside the party, who don’t want to participate in the contest with him. And especially when compared to previous primaries, the same number of members had at least 100,000 left on the street. The Democratic Party under Renzi has self destructed; it has undergone a crash diet. Those who left the party had long warned about a schism among the people, a forerunner of Bersani’s resignation.

Besides, this downward trend of voter participation also indicates another weakness in their participation in congress discussion circles. It was not at all unusual for them to arrive to the meetings haggard, but then there were hundreds of members willing to vote. The hard core that always sided with the secretary.

The real test at the polls is scheduled for April 30. Here, the Renzi propaganda states that if a million and a half go to the polls, it would be a success.

They’re making the bold prediction based on the previous primaries, which Renzi won against Cuperlo and Civati, when three million went to the polls. This massive wave could become an undertow on April 30. If the turnout of the open primaries goes down to half, they would be a flop.

But against the propaganda spread in unified networks, it is quite useless to dismantle the winning stories. It is certainly true that the lonely man retakes command, but it is a discouraged and resized Democratic Party. It remains true that Renzi has hit the goal of the congress, but the Orlando and Emiliano minorities have gotten decent placings of policies different from the secretary’s.

Of course it makes little political sense to announce any increase of the membership, and all agree that it is best to avoid the official documents.

At the end of this troubled Congress, Renzi can say to those who doubt the transparency of the results, what he already said the last time he spoke up at the beginning of the congress (“Someone wins and someone loses and the loser must acknowledge the result”). The grievances of his competitors only makes the Secretary reiterate his message: “Who wins wins, who loses accepts it.”

But he is the first not to admit the crisis of the Democratic Party reflected by this first result. Deep down, Renzi has the advantage of consistency because even after the massive hemorrhage of the last local elections in Emilia Romagna, in front of the dramatic, unprecedented 36 percent of Emilian voters who painstakingly went to the polls, he did not look troubled at all by the dramatic abstention. He remained faithful to the golden principle of his political style: abstention and escape from the Democratic Party are not important, “the important thing is to win.” Citizen participation is the least of his worries, stuff of the old left.