March 4 is D-Day! We vote! No, not that vote. The other one. Italian general election (yes, I know, it’s not a snap election this time! How very unusual, huh?). So who is running this time? Loads of parties, as usual. If you’re geeky or insomniac enough and want to learn more, you’re in the right place. Buckle in.
Parties already represented in the outgoing Parliament
The center-right coalition:
Forza Italia: yes, Silvio is back. Technically he isn’t, he’s barred from public office (long story), but FI is his creature and wouldn’t go anywhere without his brand (and $$$). He is still promising the world and a pony, but tries to look a tad more responsible than the M5S – more on that below – so you can still have the world, but not choose the colour of your pony. [Now, I know this is totally irrelevant as a political point but I have to say it at least once: Silvio is now positively scary to look at. Seriously: he can’t move his facial muscles anymore. It’s a bit like a male Cher with more fake tan]. Okay, back to serious (…) analysis of the manifesto: if you have ever followed Italian elections before you know that FI generally promises tax cuts for pretty much everyone, leaving to others the pesky details of how it’s going to actually make them work in practice.
TL;DR: still appealing to old people, which in Italy means a large potential constituency, plus by now it should be clear to everyone that we’ll only get rid of Silvio if and when the next Highlander finds him. And even then, I’m not so sure (mark my words, he’ll draw large crowds at his funeral – 99% of those present will be there only to make sure he is actually dead).
Lega Nord: a bunch of Islamophobic Putin groupies headed by Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen’s pal in the EU Parliament, where he only shows up to collect his check and to ask embarrassingly stupid conspiracy theory questions on chemtrails (yes, really). The neo-fascist who shot six migrants in Macerata earlier this month stood as a Lega candidate for local office last year, but you won’t hear them mention this. Their manifesto is a mix of populist and impractical economic reforms and, of course, heavy immigration restriction/border control measures. Projected to do well at the polls and maybe even improve on their 2013 results, and this says a lot on the state of the country.
TL;DR: repellent and hence politically fashionable at the moment. God help us.
Fratelli d’Italia: I take it very personally that one of the few parties headed by a woman is a neo-fascist one. I haven’t actually bothered reading their manifesto because they are unvotable by default, but I do know it takes at least one page straight from the original Fascist Party book and proposes the introduction of economic support for patriotic Italian women making good Italian Babies™ for the Nation. If you’ll excuse me a second [retching sounds]. Where were we? Oh yes, free creches and kindergartens, and a tougher immigration policy too, cela va de soi.
TL;DR: fascists. Should not even be allowed to run, and yet.
Noi con l’Italia: a collection of centre-right political mummies who for whatever reason do not feel at home in any of the above, and felt they needed their own party. Probably closest to FI. Not worth any more of mine or your time.
TL;DR: see above.
The center-left coalition:
Partito Democratico: Matteo Renzi’s toy, which he seems to have broken, perhaps irreparably. Its five years in government have not been a total disaster, but there is only so much you can fix in that time when problems have been dragging for decades and you don’t even try hard. Their manifesto intends to keep building on what done so far, with a sprinkle of populist ideas such as a new €80 child benefit. Renzi has been uncharacteristically quiet and on the sidelines during the campaign so far, and it was reported in Brussels that he might be toying with the idea of becoming a candidate for the Commission president job next year. Intriguingly, something is also going on (IT) with the legal ownership of the PD logo, which commentators say might imply he’s preparing for a split.
TL;DR: the BAU scenario. Nothing thrilling, but not even the very worst that could happen (as an aside, I’m so effing tired of reasoning in terms of the least bad option).
Insieme: I have no idea who they are, but recognized the logo from the long-forgotten Green Party. Apparently there is still one.
TL;DR: see above.
Civica Popolare: the result of one of those endless party splinterings typical of Italian politics, headed by the catastrophically inept former Health minister Beatrice Lorenzin – a particulary rash-inducing specimen of ultra-Catholic, self-hating woman. Yes, I know, I thought this was the center-left coalition too. Life is too short to read their manifesto.
TL;DR: see above.
+Europa: headed by former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, its manifesto is an odd mix of promising social measures and disconcerting market-will-rule-itself ideas. Probably pointless to discuss any of those in detail, since Bonino has quite never managed to translate her popularity into votes.
TL;DR: in a more advanced country it might be a group to reckon with. But we are not discussing a more advanced country.
Parties going it alone:
Five Star Movement: the Frankenstein of late tech entrepreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio and hasn’t-been-funny-for-a-decade stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo. Ostensibly a bottom-up protest movement later turned into a party, it was the main surprise of the 2013 GE (picture Pennywise jumping out of your closet: that kind of surprise). At the time a lot of people, including yours truly, naively thought that maybe their being in Parliament for five years would call their bluff. I look back now and shake my head at that lost innocence. If you try to make sense of the M5S by assuming it works like a standard political party, you’re wasting your time. The organization platform is a clever money-making machine managed by the Casaleggio family business, and the small group with decision-making power in it has never had any serious, coherent political ideas to implement. Unfortunately the penny hasn’t dropped yet for the thousands of activists who still delude themselves that they will change the world or at least Italy. In what ways, they don’t know for sure. Oh yes, I almost forgot: because the M5S is basically an empty box with no ideology or consistent programme, for its fanbase it has turned out to be a lot like the Mirror of Erised. And it seems to have quite a similar effect too. They do have a manifesto, of course, several parts of which turned out (IT) to have been copy/pasted from Wikipedia, assorted articles, and even political opponents’ speeches. It’s about 600 pages (!) of waffle which for obscure reasons activated the memory area in my brain where Ségolène Royal’s 2007 manifesto is stored, covered in cobwebs: I see some nice ideas in it, but how are you going to implement any of them without bankrupting the country? Spoiler: you can’t.
TL;DR: a worse than useless bunch of dilettantes. Avoid like the plague.
Liberi e Uguali: a micro-coalition of three small left parties, each the result of – you guessed it – successive splits from the PD. Made the mistake of appointing former judge and Senate President Pietro Grasso as its leader instead of going for Laura Boldrini, best described as living proof of that Charlotte Whitton quote. They run on a good left-wing manifesto, the only one I’ve read so far which explicitly includes measures to tackle LGBT discrimination and VAW. Of course, anything more than the desks of the opposition is unattainable, because Italy.
TL;DR: we can’t have nice things.
Partito repubblicano – ALA: a duo of micro-parties whose roots can be traced back to the anti-monarchical, liberal movements of XIX century Italy. Today, their eight-page manifesto dedicates three incensed paragraphs to target practice on the Bolkenstein Directive. Go figure.
TL;DR: I can’t believe I spent some time reading this manifesto, and then some more writing about it. What’s wrong with me?
Parties with no MPs in the outgoing Parliament – and most likely the incoming too
Potere al popolo: I only heard about them a couple of weeks ago, and don’t honestly think more than 5% of the voters has. Left-wing.
Partito comunista: the splinter of the original Italian Communist Party with legal ownership of the logo, and hence the only one who can still use it. Not that it will do them any good.
Per una sinistra rivoluzionaria – Partito comunista dei lavoratori: the splinter of the original Italian Communist Party without legal ownership of the logo. Not that it will make any difference.
Casapound: fascists, the garbage-fire level. Excuse me while I pour bleach all over this page.
Italia agli italiani: more garbage-fire level fascists. More bleach.
Destre unite: I think I may have run out of bleach.
Blocco nazionale: a pro-monarchy party for the vintage voter.
Popolo della famiglia: ultra-Catholic homophobes. Anyone got some bleach?
Rinascimento: I have no idea who they are, but their party logo includes that Adam-God hands detail from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco. Classy.
Lista del popolo: ditto, but on their logo is a dude riding a white horse. Maybe they field Prince Charming candidates.
Popolo partite IVA: a single-item party for the “VAT people”, i.e. the self–employed.
The Venn diagram of their voters and that of tax evaders is almost a circle I don’t want to be sued.
10 volte meglio: “10 times better” than what and whom?
SIAMO – Libertà di cura: anti-vaxxers.
Democrazia cristiana: in a distant geological era, the first Italian party. Some people really don’t know when it’s time to retire.
Valore umano: they propose halving the duration of the standard work day from 8 to 4 hours, leaving the original salary unchanged. Do they field any candidates in my constituency?
Stato moderno solidale: when your term paper assignment is drafting a mockup manifesto for an imaginary party and you leave it until the night before the deadline.
Italia nel cuore: I refuse to read anything about a party whose logo is a big red heart.
Südtiroler Volkspartei: only runs in the German-speaking region of Trentino-Alto Adige. Autonomists, but adagio e rallentando. A bit haughty and not particularly liked in the rest of the country. Lovely mountains though.
Autodeterminatzione: only runs in Sardinia. That ‘tz’ in the name should be a proud reminder that the island keeps its own dialect alive, but it annoyingly looks like they don’t know what F7 is for.
Grande Nord: quite pointlessly runs in the Northern League strongholds.
Fronte friulano and Patto per l’autonomia: how did anyone think it would be a good idea to come up with two competing autonomist parties in a region with a population of a little over a million?
Italians abroad: there are 5 million of us and four parties of/for expats, because of course duplicating efforts is so totally effective. Movimento MAIE is the main one, if you live in Latin America you can also choose between UNITAL and USEI (I don’t, so I can’t be bothered to check what those acronyms mean), and then there is the fascinatingly-named Free Flights to Italy. Where do I sign? [Update 22 February: some digging has been made abour FFtI and what came up (IT) is odd at best and downright unsettling at worst. It seems the “party” is an empty shell registered as a not-for-profit by a shady man whose whereabouts and activities are unknown. I have questions now about how FFtI ended up on my ballot paper]