Stilwechsel

A change of style.

On 22 Feb 2014, Italy’s new prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and his cabinet were sworn into office. Eight of the sixteen cabinet ministers were women, apparently a first in Italy. It’s also one of the youngest cabinets in Italy’s history, with a relatively low number of ministers.

Mr. Renzi said he wants to start reforming Italy’s election laws and institutions this month, with labor market reform in March 2014, public administration reform in April 2014, and tax reform in May 2014.

Background gleaned in February 2013 from international reporting trying to make sense of Italy’s post-2013-election carnage:

Italy’s complex governing problems arose from post-Mussolini fears of a strong Prime Minister and the arcane electoral laws passed by Silvio Berlusconi in 2006. According to the 27 Feb 2013 F.A.Z., problems to be fixed included:

A weak prime minister who could not, e.g., fire ministers from his own cabinet. Tiny majorities were inflated by being awarded bonus seats in both sides of the legislature, in the interest of increasing governmental stability; this must have contributed to Italian voters’ furious sense of powerlessness. Young Italians were in fact powerless, having been deliberately disenfranchised: the minimum voting age was 18 to vote for House members but 25 to vote for Senators! Some election rules were so abstruse it seemed like deliberate confustication (surfed successfully in 2013 by Mr. Berlusconi’s intense campaigning in the more populous regions):

  • Parties had to win at least 4% to enter the Italian house of representatives, unless they were in coalitions that won >10% in which case they only needed to win 2%; but the “best loser” party was also allowed to keep its House seats at even <2%.
  • Senate seats were won regionally and the minimum for a party to enter the Senate was 8% in each region, unless the party was in a coalition with ≥20% in which case it needed only ≥3%.

Update on 13 Dec 2013: Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s election reform will be eliminating state financing of campaigns; it will be gone by 2017 said Spiegel.de. Campaigns in Italy will be financed only by donations from individuals and companies. The parties had been receiving payments from the government based on the number of votes they collected in elections. This will be reduced to 60% in 2014, 50% in 2015, 40% in 2016, and then zeroed out. The new law limited the tax-deductible donations to Italian political parties to max. 300,000 euros per person and 200,000 euros per company.

Germany uses a similar public-funding system for political parties but, said Spiegel.de, only gave 145 million euros to its political parties in 2012 while Italy spent 182 million euros. Mr. Letta’s predecessor Mario Monti had already begun reducing the heavily criticized funding (down to 91 million euros in 2013), which had had the reputation among some Italian voters of making Italy’s political parties a “Selbstbedienungsladen,” a help-yourself shop, for politicians.

It seems Mr. Letta’s plan to eliminate public campaign financing entirely would ultimately reduce democracy in Italy. Large companies could live very comfortably with that kind of power, as we can see in the U.S.A. before and especially after the Citizens United decision by the U.S.’s Supreme Court.

(SHTEEL vecks el.)

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