September 25 is only a short time away, the day on which some of the most important general elections in the history of the Italian Republic will be held. Yet, despite the major significance of this date, the party of abstention seems to be the real winner, able to rally many “supporters” in the democratic and leftist area.
This feeling of deep depression toward the exercise of voting is leading to a series of appeals in an attempt to counter it. CGIL Secretary Landini made one while speaking to the 5,000 delegates gathered in Bologna: “The only electoral appeal I feel like making from this stage is to go out and vote.” She recalled that not only does democracy enter a crisis without voters, but, even more importantly, “those who vote decide.” The ANPI did so as well, in the name of defending the Constitution, trying to counter the widespread opinion that “they are all the same, because Renzi also tried to twist it.”
We can consider that there may be reasonable motivations for not feeling represented by any party, reasons fueled by a great confusion on the stage of Italian politics, in a situation that is unfortunately far from excellent. Moreover, as happened in the last municipal elections, when more than half of eligible voters didn’t show up at the polls, there is a close and direct relationship between abstentionism and inequality.
Only 28% of low-income voters went to the polls to elect their mayor, while for medium income voters the percent rose to 63%, and went up to 79% for those with high incomes. We will certainly see the increase in poverty, which has doubled in just a few years, reflected in the abstentionism rates.
Article 48 of the Constitution tells us that voting is a right and a “civic duty,” even if it is not compulsory. It implicitly recognizes that abstentionism has equal standing with voting. According to all polls, this “great stampede” towards those with higher income is very likely to reach record levels on September 26, if it is true that more than 40% of Italians are decided not to go to the polls. Their reasons are most diverse, and all legitimate, including the extreme ones of those who do not recognize any role for democratic institutions and therefore ignore them by not voting. However, others choose a path that is more self-aware, more reasoned, more critical.
With the vertical drop in citizens’ civic participation, there is no doubt that today, especially in the left-wing area, many consider elections to be merely a ritual to keep the party power system alive and well. They are right, in principle, because the driving force to make citizens the protagonists has weakened greatly over time (technocrat governments and governments of national unity have fueled the crisis), and new blood is needed. It is no coincidence that Norberto Bobbio, who can’t be counted among the abstentionists, observed in a prescient essay from 1984, entitled The Future of Democracy, that in mass society “the vote of conviction is becoming increasingly rare: I would dare say that the only conviction is that of those who do not vote, because they have understood that elections are a ritual that can be avoided without serious harm.”
In the face of such a radical and motivated refusal, it becomes quite difficult to try to convince comrades and friends on the left to vote. And I understand that those who are some years older are skeptical, bitter, disillusioned. And tired, because despite the many battles for social and civil progress, some won, some lost, today the democratic world finds itself with the prospect of an almost certain victory of the most retrogressive, illiberal, reactionary forces in Republican Italy. But therein lies the only real and serious reason to go to the polls.
If it is true, as the pollsters keep finding, that the right-center coalition has victory in the bag, every democratic, left-wing citizen must make life difficult for them. And the first step is this: let’s go out and vote on Sunday. Of course, vote for those who radically oppose the Meloni-Salvini-Berlusconi trio. Someone said there is something even worse than taking away the citizen’s right to vote: taking away their will to vote.
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