Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again

Matteo Renzi
Then-Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Rome, December 10, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi has pulled the plug on the country’s ruling center-left coalition.

Renzi, now a senator, has withdrawn his 48 lawmakers and three ministers (one junior) from the coalition ostensibly over a spending dispute. He wants to use Italy’s €200+ billion share of the European Union’s €750 billion coronavirus recovery fund to invest in infrastructure and the green economy. The other ruling parties prefer to use the bulk of the money for short-term stimulus.

Renzi has also proposed to tap into the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), set up in the wake of the euro crisis, to help pay for Italy’s increased health-care spending, something Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has resisted. ESM funding would come with strings attached. Countries are free to spend their share of the coronavirus recovery fund however they see fit.

Renzi’s proposals have merit. Italy is failing its next generation. It needs structural reforms — which ESM support would require — to catch up with the rest of Europe. Spending €200 billion to prop up the Italian economy in the short term is a wasted opportunity.

But expecting the other ruling parties to meet his terms, when Renzi’s is by far the smallest of the three, is unreasonable. Throwing Italy into a political crisis when it is still suffering one of the worst outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the world is irresponsible.

Conte must now find a new majority in parliament, perhaps with members of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, or call early elections. Read more “Renzi Picks the Wrong Fight — Again”

Renzi Won’t Become the Italian Macron

Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016
Italian Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi is leaving the Democrats to form his own new centrist party. Some thirty lawmakers are reportedly ready to go with him.

Renzi, a social democrat, is hoping to do for Italy what Emmanuel Macron did for France.

Don’t bet on it. Read more “Renzi Won’t Become the Italian Macron”

Renzi Resigns, Italy Split Down the Middle, War on the Spanish Right

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, has stepped down after his Democratic Party fell from first to fourth place in the election on Sunday.

I argued here in January that Renzi had two challenges: uniting the left and convincing voters he could still deliver reforms.

He failed at both. He watered down labor reforms in an attempt to appease the left wing of his party, but they walked out anyway. He didn’t secure a supermajority for constitutional reforms, necessitating a referendum to which he then foolishly tied his own political career.

Renzi did get important things right, not in the least recognizing that the future of the Democratic Party lies not with old working-class voters but with the young and college graduates. Yet he failed to dissuade them from supporting the Five Star Movement. Read more “Renzi Resigns, Italy Split Down the Middle, War on the Spanish Right”

Italy’s Renzi Calls for German-Style Voting System

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and German chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference in Berlin, March 25, 2014
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi and German chancellor Angela Merkel address a joint news conference in Berlin, March 25, 2014 (Bundesregierung)

Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, has called for a German-style voting system in his country that could pave the way for a left-right coalition government.

Italy must have voting reform before elections can be held this year or next. Read more “Italy’s Renzi Calls for German-Style Voting System”

After Winning Back Party Control, Renzi Faces Two Challenges

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13, 2016
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi delivers a news conference in Rome, January 13, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Matteo Renzi has won a convincing mandate for his center-left agenda, winning over 70 percent support in the Democratic Party’s leadership contest.

The former premier, who stepped down in December after losing a referendum on constitutional reform, is believed to be plotting a comeback.

After prevailing in this weekend’s primary, he can comfortably brush off criticism that he governed too much from the center. Read more “After Winning Back Party Control, Renzi Faces Two Challenges”

Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter's question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers a reporter’s question in Mexico City, Mexico, April 20, 2016 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s Democratic Party leader, Matteo Renzi, launched his candidacy for reelection this week by presenting himself as the alternative to nationalist leaders in his own country as well as America and France.

“Some people wanted a party congress to find an alternative to Renzi-ism. It needs to be done as an alternative to Trumpism, Le Penism and even Grilloism,” the former prime minister said, referring to the new president of the United States, the leader of France’s National Front and the founder of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Read more “Renzi Picks Side in Italy’s Blue-Red Culture War”

Italy’s Renzi Plots Return to Power After Referendum Defeat

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi visits a police academy in Rome, November 9 (Palazzo Chigi)

Matteo Renzi is being replaced as Italy’s prime minister this week, but the center-left party leader is already plotting his return to the Palazzo Chigi.

President Sergio Mattarella asked Paolo Gentiloni, Renzi’s foreign minister, to form a government on Sunday, which is expected to stay in power until elections can be held.

Italian media report that the outgoing prime minister is keen to call elections in early 2017 in order to stage a comeback. Read more “Italy’s Renzi Plots Return to Power After Referendum Defeat”

Renzi Steps Down After Italy Rejects Constitutional Reforms

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi announced his resignation in the early hours of Monday morning after the country rejected constitutional changes he had put to a referendum.

With nearly half the votes counted, the “no” side was leading with close to 60 percent.

Speaking from the Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Renzi said he took “full responsibility” for the reforms’ defeat. Read more “Renzi Steps Down After Italy Rejects Constitutional Reforms”

Italy’s Renzi Brought Referendum Mess on Himself

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi in his residence in Rome, July 2
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi in his residence in Rome, July 2 (Palazzo Chigi)

After Brexit, the Dutch “no” to the European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine and the election of Donald Trump, Italy’s constitutional referendum in December is being portrayed as the next battle in the war between populists and the powers that be.

There is something to this. The Italian referendum campaign pits a center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, who is very much in line with the European consensus against an assortment of insurgents, from the populist Five Star Movement on the left to the anti-immigrant Northern League on the right and some of Renzi’s nemeses in the ruling Democratic Party in between for good measure.

But the story of the plebiscite, and how it could end in Renzi’s downfall, is more about a young prime minister’s hubris than it is about transnational political trends. Read more “Italy’s Renzi Brought Referendum Mess on Himself”