Italy’s Small Left Rejects Pact, Making Defeat More Likely

By refusing to do a deal with the center-left, Pier Luigi Bersani makes a populist or right-wing victory more likely.

Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24, 2012
Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24, 2012 (Partito Democratico Emilia Romagna/Vincenzo Menichella)

Italy’s smaller left-wing party has ruled out a pact with Matteo Renzi’s Democrats, making a populist or right-wing victory more likely in the upcoming election.

Pier Luigi Bersani, a former Democratic Party leader who now belongs to the dissident Democrats and Progressives, has rejected Renzi’s overtures as “theatrics”.

Bad blood

There is bad blood between the two men. Renzi led an internal coup against Bersani in 2013.

Both nevertheless opened the door to an alliance last week.

They saw on Sicily what happens if the left is divided: the Democrats placed third in regional elections, behind the center-right and the populist Five Star Movement; Bersani’s party got only 6 percent of the votes.

In national polls, the Democrats are locked in a three-way contest with the Five Stars and the right.

Other left-wing parties are polling at 5 to 7 percent support, which could make the difference between the left defending or losing its majority.

Labor reforms

Bersani had called on the Democrats to make concrete proposals, singling out labor reforms Renzi enacted as prime minister.

In a concession to the left, Renzi watered down his liberalizations by not applying them to anyone in work.

But purists like Bersani and their allies in the trade union movement still felt the changes went too far. They want to change the law again and force companies to rehire workers who are deemed by a judge to have been wrongfully terminated.

Renzi is unlikely to agree. It would mean overturning what was his signature reform.