In 2008, Italian voters were divided into 20 million for the center-right and 16 million for the center-left. Ten years later, with the explosive rise of the M5S, as many as 11 million Italians chose “neither left nor right,” the center-right was reduced to 12 million and the center-left to 8 million. The two traditional macro areas had lost 8 million votes each, and the Italian political landscape was disrupted by the new player, which therefore became everyone’s enemy. Now, after four years, 5 million more people abstained than before, and the M5S has been downsized to just over 4 million voters.
In the new political landscape resulting from the September 25 vote, the center-right as a whole kept its 12 million voters, improving its overall percentage due to the decline in the overall number of votes cast. For the rest, the M5S – now transformed into a progressive force – and the PD taken together are also approaching 12 million. But as a result of the election law, because they stood separately, they were knocked out of the game. The center-right with 44% of the vote won 60% of the seats.
To sum up: the M5S anomaly re-entered the traditional conservative/progressive spectrum, the center-right is still a minority in the country, but a clear majority in Parliament, and the PD is relegated to the opposition, after being in all governments without ever having the highest support. This is where we have to start again from.
On the reasons for the decline of the PD and the Left, the discussion will hopefully continue with the courage to put everything in question, including ourselves. This must include everyone. The election results show that we have not suddenly become a right-wing and fascist country and that Meloni’s strong rise corresponds to a rebalancing within the center-right area, to the detriment of the Lega in particular. Of course, we should not underestimate the defeat and the dangers, we will have to exert heavy pressure on the new majority, but neither should we allow ourselves to get caught up in the angst of ominous-sounding simplifications.
Rather than rushing to change a few figures at the top, in order to ultimately change nothing – which has been done many times, to no avail, and for which we are paying the price today – it would be better to set for ourselves an agenda of analyzing the data and social processes that have occurred and, at the same time, start concrete initiatives capable of involving other forces and especially grassroots social actors. As we engage in daily initiatives and struggles in the face of serious emergencies, we need to initiate a radical renewal of policies and people.
We could start with a question: the PD was in power for so many years without a real majority in the country: how and why was this possible? Is there a connection with the way the Democratic Party was born?
It was a cold fusion between two declining parties: what was left of the PCI after ’89 and what was left of the DC in the aftermath of the Tangentopoli corruption scandal meltdown. The glue was the idea of keeping power by reducing the presence in the territories and theorizing and practicing the “liquid party,” replacing the old concept of taking power with that of a majoritarian vocation, weakening the notion of representation, which entails alternation between government and opposition, in favor of practicing alliances to govern at any cost, including by forcing the electoral system in a majoritarian direction.
The ideas and practices of political action were changed, boosting groups and currents as a function of electoral fiefdoms, and producing a true genetic mutation: one enters the party and lives within it, favoring practices of internal power-seeking, ambitions, alliances and struggles and uprooting oneself from the local territories and workplaces.
Could one try, instead, opening the doors and windows wide to young people, to all those who live with despair and anger in the current conditions of precariousness, new and old poverty, fears and insecurities that are the raw fuel feeding populism and the right?
This is the point from which we must start again. All progressives, of whatever hue, can and must feel part of this revival effort. No longer repeating old customs and errors, such as party primaries, government as an end in itself, alliances without popular backing, agendas dictated by technocrats and finance, means opening another perspective.
The center-left area which has been our point of reference so far may become divided between two different entities that are the result of the transformation of both the PD and the M5S. There’s nothing tragic about this development. A large cultural political area will be able to articulate itself into two forces, naturally allied because they are from the progressive camp.
What is important is that this phase must not be the agony of two declining forces, but the construction of a culture that would permeate public opinion, young people, local associations, and that would work in the more material fields of inequality, work and its remuneration, distribution of income and wealth, but also in the more ethical-social fields, such as civil rights, coexistence, welcoming refugees, and, above all, peace and the production and use of weapons.
It is a phase of redefinition of geopolitical areas post globalization, with the return to apparently ideological contrasts, but hiding a new conflict over natural resources, energy, raw materials and rare earth metals. And which in the future will also affect agriculture, land and water, all with repercussions on peoples and migration processes. There is enough room for two entities in the progressive camp. But we must decide to be committed to this task. All of us.