Politics Without Proper Politicians

Don’t look now – but Italy is no longer at the center of Eurozone fears. Indeed, the interest rates the government there pays on its debt are now back down closer to the “normal” rates of old. And this all has to do with Mario Monti, installed as the “technocratic” prime minister only some four months ago:

Neuer Politikstil in Rom: Monti und die Millionäre mischen Italien auf… http://t.co/hd2d9zW6



Yes, the grand-daddy of German newsmagazines, Der Spiegel is impressed – or at least writer Hans-Jürgen Schlamp and his editors there are. Could it be that, somehow, Italy is turning itself around precisely by becoming a bit more “German”?

Not really – unless you’re referring to “German” as in “Third Reich” (and we know you are not). For the striking thing about this article is how undemocratic that country has come to be. It’s the politicians in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies who were elected, after all; neither Monti nor the rest of cabinet ever were. Yet these days, they get what they want. Schlamp’s piece leads off with the tale of this government’s current attempt to curtail workers’ protection against being fired. Since forever that has been out of the question – the Left there, always strong whether actually in power at the national level or not, would never allow any such thing. Yet now it’s the Labor Minister, Elsa Fornero, who is warning the unions “We can’t negotiate forever,” meaning that they better finally show some “give” on the issue or the government will just take the measure it wants passed to the legislature anyway – and probably get its way.

The basic problem is that, while it’s true that these legislators were elected, it was largely they who brought the country to the brink of default and economic collapse in the first place. Voters know that they messed things up with who they chose.

Which then also means that there is going to be a problem when this “technocratic phase” comes to an end, which will happen at the latest when the next national elections come around next year. How do you profile yourself to your voters when you’re just giving the unelected government everything they demand – because you know full well that’s what those voters now want? It would be no use refusing: the country’s in trouble, haven’t you heard?, so you would just get yourself irredeemably in their bad graces. But everyone else is simply deferring to the government as well.

Naturally, this situation is the worst of all for what is left of former premier Berlusconi’s party, considering the way he was driven from office in disgrace. According to Schlamp, those politicians are very confused: “Many see their political survival linked to the return of their former Leader [the article does actually use here the infamous term Führer]. Others consider that to be the worst of all [possible] variants.”

Nonetheless, decision-time will come, because Mario Monti and his Merry Men aren’t going to stick around forever. He has already made it clear that he’ll head back to his professorship at Bocconi University (Milan) after those 2013 elections. And anyway, Italy is a democracy: it’s supposed to have a proper, democratically legitimate government.

UPDATE: Whoops! Did Herr Schlamp – and, by extension, I – write too soon?

Italy’s largest trade union, the CGIL, says it will hold a general strike over plans to reform employment laws http://t.co/UWabccdF


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