A new era of political stability in Italy?

Italy's governing coalition has emerged stronger from a referendum and regional elections which ended on Monday. Although the Partito Democratico (PD) lost one region to the right-wing Lega, it didn't suffer the predicted crushing defeat. In addition, 70 percent of voters were in favour of the reduction in the size of the Italian parliament proposed by PD's coalition partner M5S. International commentators discuss whether the vote heralds a new phase of political stability.

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Le Temps (CH) /

A good sign for Conte and Europe

By voting in favour of a smaller parliament Italy has shown that it is willing to reform, Le Temps puts in:

“The Italians have shown that they're capable of changing their country by accepting a reduction in the number of lawmakers from 945 to 600. The precarious stability that results from the vote also has the merit of reassuring Brussels for the time being. For Giuseppe Conte and the Five Star Movement, who were committed to this reform, this comes as a welcome victory, even if it doesn't erase the serious problems that plague the movement. It will strengthen the prime minister's hand in the debate on the recovery plan that Italy must submit to the European Union.”

Népszava (HU) /

Voters see through Salvini

Italian voters are putting their faith in continuity rather than populism, Népszava writes in delight:

“Salvini has once again misjudged the political balance of power. He was hoping for a total defeat of the left, which would have destabilised Conte's government to such an extent that his calls for early parliamentary elections would have gained force. After this balanced election result, however, Conte can heave a sigh of relief. In any event it would have been strange if Conte had been overthrown now of all times, when his compatriots are entirely satisfied with his crisis management. This election has shown that a growing number of voters are seeing through Salvini. Rather absurdly, it's no longer the populist leader who poses the greatest threat to Conte but his own coalition.”

tagesschau.de (DE) /

No more than a reprieve

There is no reason to sit back and relax, ARD's Rome correspondent Elisabeth Pongratz warns on tagesschau.de:

“The results show that many Italians in the regions are dissatisfied. The governing coalition in Rome must now show that it really takes people's problems seriously and is prepared to implement reforms. It has already announced plenty of them. Time is running out, the coronavirus crisis has left many people out of work, and there are also long-standing problems such as the state's excessive debts. The voters in the regions have given the government in Rome a reprieve, so they can continue to govern unscathed. But under the surface tensions are simmering, and the government must make the most of this reprieve if it wants to prevent a major earthquake.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

From scapegoat to election winner

The Partito Democratico (PD) and its leader Nicola Zingaretti are the clear winners, Corriere della Sera concludes:

“The lone winner of the regional elections is the politician who was made the scapegoat of an almost certain defeat 24 hours prior to the vote. A sacrificial lamb targeted by the opposition and challenged within the governing coalition. ... He lost one region, Marche, but kept Tuscany, Apulia and Campania. Both politically and psychologically that's enough - even more than enough - to speak of a success: all the more so in that participation exceeded what was expected - and feared - due to Covid.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Don't sugarcoat differences of opinion

The fact that the results of the PD and M5S were less disappointing than expected does not hide the weaknesses of the governing coalition, Corriere del Ticino replies:

“The former head of the M5S, Luigi Di Maio, spoke yesterday in triumphant tones of the success of the yes in the referendum. ... But at the local level, in the regional elections, the movement continued to lose support. Not to mention the serious differences of opinion within the movement regarding regional electoral alliances with the Partito Democratico. ... PD Secretary General Nicola Zingaretti also chose to ignore the problems of the governing coalition: the profound differences of opinion not only with the partner 5MS, but also within his own party. For instance, the yes vote in favour of reducing the parliamentarians by a third did not have the unconditional support of the entire PD.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Nothing much has changed

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung sums up what will continue to bother Italians about their parliament:

“Too big and too expensive! ... The people's representatives are not representative because the party headquarters and not the voters determines the composition of the lists. And finally, parliamentary work is perceived as a sequence of murky backroom deals. ... The clear result of the referendum doesn't really change that. The savings are small, the electoral system remains the same, and politics continues to be mainly about horse-trading. ... Above all, however, the two-chamber system - which often leads to detours and blockades in the legislative process although the two chambers are by and large elected at the same time and thus differ only slightly in their composition - has been retained.”

La Stampa (IT) /

By no means indifferent

The Italians aren't that tired of politics after all, La Stampa writes, commenting on the turnout:

“Despite Covid, 40 percent of voters had gone to the polls by 11 p.m. on Sunday to exercise their right to vote in the referendum. And not only in the seven regions where the regional administration is being renewed, but in the others too. So Italian democracy is doing better than we thought. ... Hardly anyone expected this. Not just because of growing fear driven by an alarming increase in infection numbers in the last week of the campaign,, but also because of the widespread perception that Italians were losing interest in political participation. That's not the case, or at least not to the extent we had feared.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The end of anti-politics

Italy is also at a turning point in terms of content, La Repubblica writes in delight:

“The long season of anti-politics is drawing to a close. The referendum on reducing the number of seats in parliament is both the culmination of anti-politics and its turning point. This can be seen in the de-ideologised, tame way Cinque Stelle is now approaching the subject. This time they left in the chamber of horrors the huge cardboard scissors which they wielded outside the government building a few months ago in a campaign that bordered on anti-parliamentarianism, and which denied the representative function of both parliament and Senate, denouncing their seats as a superfluous expense.”