Thursday, March 14, 2013

The two clowns (part 3)

How did it happen?

The result of the last election was about that one third of the electors voted for Left, one third for Right and the last third for M5S. Not exactly divided, but pretty much:

Left: 31.6%
Right: 30.7%
M5S: 23.8%

Left: 29.5%
Right: 29.1%
M5S: 25.5%

The Left has the relative majority at the Camera, so, for the rules of the electoral law, it gets the absolute majority of the Deputies.
In the Senate, as i said in the previous post, the relative majority of votes to the Left was enough to obtain the relative majority of the Senators, but it was far from the lower bound of the half+1.
This was an extreme case, but there is no doubt that an electoral system that can lead, although within an extreme case, to the impossibility to govern the Country has some serious problems.


One main subject in the political agenda for every political parties is the reform of the electoral law.
This law is named Legge Calderoli (from the name of Roberto Calderoli, the guy that invented such a tricky thing). It is also nicknamed "Porcellum" (it could be translated from Latin as "piggy thing", "dirty trick"). This nickname was invented by Roberto Calderoli himself when he finally realized that the mechanism he invented was really a masterpiece of shit.
In year 2005, Porcellum substituted Mattarellum, the previous law (a little better than this), which itself substituted a previous law that was a "perfect proportional" law. In the Proportional the nomination of candidates was based on a proportion to the number of the electoral votes.
In other words, in these last couple of decades Italian electoral rules moved from a Proportional to a Majority system. The goal is to have only two (main) parties or coalitions, in which case, of course, there would not be any difference between the two systems (who wins more votes, has the majority of votes, which makes the majority of the elected, both in a proportional and a majority-system law).

In my opinion, the proportional law we had before was the ideal system, because it better respected the will of the citizens. In a proportional system, if an idea is supported by a party which has a certain amount of consent among the citizens, the number of elected Parliamentarians belonging to that party that support that idea is proportional to the number of the citizens that support that party. So, the strength of that idea is proportional to the number of electors that like it.

Of course the proportional system favorites the fragmentation of the Parliament is small parties. And, under that system, it didn't ever happen, as far as i remember, that one single party won the absolute majority of the two chambers (which of course could happen only if a party obtained the absolute majority of votes).
Moreover, with the proportional system, also coalitions among different parties are discouraged, because, for a party, entering a coalition means to accept compromises, which in general means that the strength with which a party supports an idea is limited, which thing is less appealing for the citizens.

For this facts, the real main difference that came out when we passed from the Proportional to the Majority-system law is that, while in the Proportional, in order to reach the absolute majority, the parties had to form alliances AFTER the elections, with the Majority-system the parties are pushed to form coalitions BEFORE the elections, being that the number of seats assigned to a coalition is increased if that coalition obtains a good result of votes. In other words, with the Majority-system it is more convenient to be part of a big party/coalition instead of a small one.
Still, i believe that the Proportional system is better, because, with the Majority system, important values tend too often to be excluded from the the parties/coalitions agenda just because they are not very popular or they were canceled in the process of finding a compromise.
Which, in my opinion, is the right opposite of the task of Politics: Politics should support the needs of weaker citizens against the power of the stronger ones. Politics should protect minorities against the power of majorities. I believe that the most important rule of a democratic society is that ALL the citizens are even, also who belongs to small minorities.

A good thing in the Majority systems is that it should (should!!!) reduce the risk that a small party (so that, supported by few citizens), has a a big power. This can happen because the number of its deputies/senator, although small, is determinant to form an absolute majority with the ones of a big party. We call this big-power/small-party situation "Ago della Bilancia" ("hand of the scale").
This is what happened, for example, for the PSI small party, which, in the 80's played the game to be allied to one or the other big party (DC, PCI) obtaining favors (political or [!!!] personal) in change of an instrumental alliance of deputies/senators (is it just a coincidence that Bettino Craxi -PSI-, best friend of Clown #1, was Prime Minister?!?).
The fact is that Porcellum didn't solve the Ago della Bilancia problem. In fact, even if we exclude the good result for M5S (Clown #2), we would end up to a situation in which in the Senate, the Left didn't obtain the absolute majority anyway. There would have been a need for a compromise between the Left and Monti's Center party, in order to have the absolute majority both in the Camera and in the Senato. The center would have had a big power although only few deputies/senators in Parliament. The Ago della Bilancia would have been Monti, which would have had the power to dismiss the Government whenever he wanted.
In other words, with this majority system, the goal to form the alliances BEFORE the elections, with the advantage to have clear political programs BEFORE the citizens are called to vote, is reached. But that does not mean a big lot if AFTER the elections the winner party/coalition ends up to change its program again, in order to find a compromise with other parties.

Another difference versus the Proportional system is that in the Porcellum the candidate Prime Minister is declared by the coalition BEFORE the elections (involving therefore the electors), and not AFTER. This is an obvious consequence of the fact that the coalitions, so that their political programs, are already given BEFORE the elections (while, if the alliance are settled after the elections, also the Government program must be mediated among the programs of the allied parties). The candidate Presidente del Consiglio is supposed to be the best person to actualize that program if ever that coalition wins the elections. So, formally the Presidente del Consiglio is still nominated by the Presidente della Repubblica, but it's obvious that the best supported nomination would be the candidate of the winner coalition, which would be the one supported by the relative majority of the citizens.
Of course also in this point the Porcellum failed, being that, while the candidate of the Left is Pierluigi Bersani (which i don't really like, nevertheless is the one i voted), any compromise that will be found will probably ask for somebody else.
If the purpose to vote for the Prime Minister is a kind of control by the citizens, this is not reached by the Porcellum, in fact Berlusconi is still around after 20 years of criminal government.

Corruption in Parliament

Another criticism that is traditionally made to the Porcellum is the lack of "Preferenze".
In the old Mattarellum, and even before in the Proportional system, the citizen was called to vote with a sign on the symbol of the party/coalition and, optionally, a name of his preferred candidate Deputy/Senator (one voting paper for each chamber). When the Porcellum was introduced, the citizens couldn't express this name (Preferenza) anymore.
When it was firstly introduced i didn't think this was a bad idea. In fact i believe that the choice of a candidate deputy/senator among hundreds is a too difficult task for a citizen. In order to choose in a serious way, the citizen should at least know something about each candidate (something more than his/her membership to a party). Moreover i believe that a good or bad feeling of the citizen is more driven by something that has nothing to do with his capability in the political office he is candidate to.
Just to make a stupid example, when Obama was elected for the first mandate, i liked Hillary Clinton better than Obama. This for the much i knew (not a big lot, indeed) about their declared programs when they run for the Primaries. Nevertheless i also believed that, against the Republicans, Obama appealed much better to the citizens than how Clinton would have (between the two of them, Obama is the one i would like to sit in a pub with, for a beer). Maybe "sympathy", "pleasantness" could be an important peculiarity for the President of the USA, but for sure, in the Italian Parliament i prefer a capable deputy/senator than a handsome/pretty one.
I believe that an appealing candidate for the Senate/Camera has more chance to win in a system that allows Preferenze. His/her capability in Politics would be more hidden to the elector than other appearance attributes like good looking, sympathy...
In other words, i believe that the job of Deputy/Senator needs a technical skill that cannot be easily judged by the average citizen (when i apply for a job [I am a software engineer], i prefer to be interviewed and evaluated for my competence about computer science; this quite never happens, being that the people that are in charge to judge me are usually totally unqualified - instead, some psycho-dumb questions like "which are the three qualities and the three defects that describe yourself better?" are more common).

Also under this point of view, the Porcellum failed. In the Porcellum the candidates are nominated with "Liste Bloccate" (blocked lists) of the parties/coalitions. In other words, any coalition (and any party within the coalition) establishes, before the elections, an ordered list of candidates. After the election, the topmost names of that list are selected to cover the number of deputies/senators seats assigned to that coalition (and to any party within the coalition).
In other words, a party can make sure that some candidate will be elected, putting that candidate on the top of the list, despite the citizens like that candidate or not.
In this way, if the party leaders want to have a full control of the people in the Parliament, they would put on the top of the list the most controllable candidates.
In the best case, when the leaders are honest, we end up to have a Parliament of "sheeps" which task is to vote upon the instruction of their leaders (the Parliament is this way transformed to an oligarchy de facto). In the worst case, if there are criminals among the leaders (and in Italy we do have a main one: Clown #1), the candidates will enforce their crimes.
What happens is that who is not accustomed to think with his own head (maybe they can think with some other part of their bodies - at the end this is why they were nominated) is more controllable. But for the same reason he is also more corruptible.
And this fact was often used by Clown #1 to move the forces into the Parliament in his favor. Romano Prodi's Government #2, for example, fell in 2008 because for a rejected Fiducia, being that Berlusconi "bought" some deputies of the Left (the news in this period, are just speaking about these facts - google "Sergio De Gregorio" for more infos about it: he confessed he accepted 3 millions euros from Berlusconi for changing his vote).

The astonishing thing is that, although the games between corruptors and corrupted are clear enough to the citizens, thanks to the Porcellum the leaders of some parties still perpetrate corruption, while the corrupted deputies/senators are still "elected" by the citizens themselves. One name for all, Domenico Scilipoti passed to the Right side, receiving a "gift" for that from Berlusconi (Scilipoti was firstly elected in the Camera thanks to a blocked list of IdV (Left) in the previous elections). That "cambio di casacca" (change of jacket) helped a couple of times Berlusconi's Government not to fall in the last legislation, despite the defection of some "traitors" of the Right. Nevertheless this time Scilipoti is again re-elected in the blocked list of PdL (Right), and he is still seating his dirty ass in the Camera.
The obvious questions are "why the PdL party still put a guy like Scilipoti in its blocked list, although it is prooved he was corrupted?" and "why the citizens still vote for Berlusconi's Party, although it is prooved that he is a corrupter, and that in his lists there are corrupted candidates?"

Berlusconi corrupted Scilipoti, so he knows that, in case of need, he can corrupt him again. That's why Scilipoti was in Berlusconi's list.
The answer to the second question is more complex, and i will try it below.
But first another thought about Porcellum:
This law favorites the corruption in the Parliament, in fact if a Deputy/Senator wants to be re-elected, his goal is not to convince the citizens he acted good in his office. Because the citizen has no power to re-elect him, being that he cannot express a Preferenza on the voting paper. Instead what he has to do is to show the leaders of the parties that he will be prone to their will whenever it is convenient to. His goal is not to have the electors consent, but to enter the blocked lists as topmost as possible.
On the other hand, a Party has no convenience to nominate a "clever enough" candidate (or that looks so to the citizens), because, being that the mandate is personal, if a clever candidate is elected, in order to work for the good of the country he can decide not to follow the direction of the party (this right is established by article 67 of the Constitution). This of course reduce the power of the Party in the Parliament. So, the interest of the Party is to have a blocked list full of stupid and corruptible people.

At the end we can say that Porcellum tend to give a lot of power to the parties, in particular to the ones that win the elections (thanks to the Premio di Maggioranza). Therefore the Parties, especially those ones that win the elections (which have the absolute majority in the Parliament), do not put their energy to change the electoral system, although they agree that Porcellum is a shameful law.
In this scenario, the parties all look dishonest to the eyes of the elector.
An elector, if traditionally votes for the Left, evaluating the fact that Berlusconi corrupted Scilipoti will certainly be enforced not to vote for Berlusconi, But, in the same time, his affection to the Left is weakened, being that Scilipoti was firstly elected in the Parliament because the Left put him in its blocked list thanks to his stupidity and corruptibility.
I am an elector for the Left. But i have to admit that also the Left itself played an important role to the spread of corruption in the Parliament. So, to me, while it is very clear why i am not gonna vote for the Right, it is much less clear why i should ever vote for the Left. I can imagine that for somebody culturally oriented to the Right would do the same type of reasoning ending up to vote Berlusconi anyway, just because for rejecting to vote for the Left (to tell the truth i believe there are thousands of other reason for which Berlusconi should go home, but should all those fact really be on the shoulders of a normal elector?). If by chance i am discussing with somebody that votes for the Right, i usually point out that Berlusconi's party is full of criminals, because i believe that this is the main cause of the disaster that was guiltily perpetrated to the Country for his personal interests. In those cases i would like that not to have back the answer that in the lines of the Left they are not better at all.
Of course the subject "they are all the same" is too much populist and simple. Right and Left are not the same, both in the contents and in the appearance (so, still, i am surprised that there is still an amount of people that vote for Berlusconi). But the responsibility of a corrupted Parliament is also of the Left parties, although on a smaller scale.

The same old faces are here again

Another consequence of the electoral system is that, one legislation after another, the elected Deputies and Senators are always the same.
If the citizen cannot decide who are the bad dudes to send away and which newbies are trustworthy enough to be introduced, then, in order to maintain the power in the same hands, the blocked lists will be filled with the same names of the previous legislation.
Also in an utopian situation of perfect honesty (which is not our case at all!), this has disastrous consequences. If the party i vote for doesn't reach the majority, or at least a relevant part of the Parliament, in most of cases i believe it is due to the incapacity of that party's candidates to win against the competitors. If in the next election the same party presents as candidates the same people, i am pretty much sure that it will loose again. I vote for the Left coalition because i identify the values of that coalition, but if I am already sure that my vote is not useful to give the country a Parliament that support those values, why am i supposed to waste my vote?
In the USA there is the good habit to change the people that loose, even if they are valid people and politicians. For example i like a lot Al Gore. But, when he lost the Presidential election, he disappeared from the political scene. At least from the run to the Presidentials.
Moreover, in the USA there is also the good habit to change the people also when they win. The president of the USA mandate is only 4 years. Which can be renewed for only one other mandate, so one person can be in charge of that office for only 8 years. This is a wonderful rule, because in the worst case when the office is given to an incapable mean person (as for example George W. Bush) he cannot make so much disaster as, in proportion, in Italy Berlusconi did for over 20 years.
I don't think in Italy the same rule can strictly be applied, because for Italian Constitution the power is in the hands of the Parliament, which is made of a lot of people. If we want to limit to 8 years each Deputy/Senator mandate, it would be a mess to change them all. Nevertheless i believe some tricks can be invented so that the power is not de facto centralized always to the same small group of people.
In Italy, instead, we have no limits for the number of mandates one single person can have (there are limits in the local administrations, but not for the Parliament or other national offices. Think only that there is no limit at all for the duration of the mandate of a Presidente del Consiglio: Traditionally when the Parliament is renewed (every 5 years at most), the Government is renewed too with a new Fiducia vote, but theoretically while a Government keeps having the trust of the Parliament, the Prime Minister keeps leading the Country forever.

To tell the truth the Left is trying to change the things, in order to have some replacement of people. This goal is pursued with the Primaries.
The goal of this kind of elections is to let the citizens decide who will be the candidate of the Left that will run for the charge of Prime Minister the Political elections.
The Left few months ago, for the first time, also performed the "Primarie Parlamentari", in order to decide who to put into the blocked lists. In this way they wanted to give back the citizens the right to decide their representative in the Parliament.
I don't think that the Primarie is the correct instrument to decide the people that will run for the Parliament seats, but, within this Porcellum law, this is a good solution.
It must be said that the freedom to decide is deeply limited on who is the candidates for the Primaries.
In the Primaries 2005, for example, there were 2 main Prime Minister candidates: Pierluigi Bersani and Ignazio Marino. At the end also Dario Franceschini decided to run. Of course Bersani won, being that the newbie Marino was not very popular. The suspicious thing was that the settlement of the candidates was perfect to make so that Marino lost and Bersani won. This all look like a political game played by some "powerful ghosts" of the Left (Massimo D'Alema and Walter Veltroni), saving the look of democracy that the Primaries give. Everybody thought that Marino was the new man, nevertheless most people voted for Bersani (or Franceschini) because they wanted a strong man to fight a strong battle against Berlusconi. In other words, when a new face faces the scene of the Left, despite the Primaries, the old faces play "dirty" games to cut his wings. Similar dirty games were played this year for the Prime Minister primaries and for the Parlamentarian primaries. That's why Bersani was still the candidate for the Left and the blocked lists were still holding some of the same names (although there were also some newbies).


Given the criminal things he did during his Government, Berlusconi and his party lost a lot of consent. Nevertheless the expected disaster didn't happen. Nowadays Berlusconi's consent is still about 25% of the electors. 25% of Italians still believe in Berlusconi!
To obtain some consent, he filled his program with lies. For example he promised that he would have given back the IMU tax (a tax on the house that was introduced last year by Monti), without explaining where he would find enough money for that (which, especially in a period of crisis, is the real problem to solve).
Being that he didn't expect to win the elections, he didn't also expect also to keep the promise, but that program looked indeed attractive to a lot of people.
The real question is: how can a lot of people still believe that raving Clown?

Berlusconi based all his political life on the "art of appearing". He owns a half of the main mass-media in Italy, including 3 out of the 6 main TV networks. Obviously those media are allowed to show news, speak of Politics, in other words unfair canvass.
In a "normal Country" possession of media would not be compatible with the office of Politics.

When Berlusconi came to power, Italian laws were unprepared. There had never been a problem of such a conflict of interests. So, after he had the power he obviously didn't make any law to control this kind of problem. On the opposite, his Government/Parliament made laws with the precise intention to enforce his own business.
Berlusconi's power is essentially based on free propaganda of lies.

The surprising thing is that in the last 20+ years, during those few and short periods in which Berlusconi was not at the power, the Government didn't settle down any antitrust law. Why? The suspicion is that in those times there were some exchange of interests - if not of money - under the table between Berlusconi and the leaders of the Left.
My general opinion is that when somebody has the power, he doesn't want to chenge the rules. He instead wants to keep the status-quo, which means to still keep the power. Of course this is a wrong strategy, because the looser will do anything to change the status-quo. But anyway, i believe that the Government efforts should try to perceive the good of the Country, and not the good of the Party.

Public financing of political parties

Another theme that is in discussion in Italian political scene is the Finanziamento pubblico ai Partiti.
This subject would sound strange in the US, but in Italy the political parties are supported, for the electoral expenses, by public financing.
Just considering the skin of the problem, it seems like a shame that, especially during a deep economical crisis, the State wastes money on such a thing as electoral expenses.
So, abolishing public financing of Parties is always an appealing theme to the electors.
This kind of use of public money is something that irritates the citizens, also because of dishonesty of the Political class, which often used part of those money for personal interests. Just to make a minor example, from some investigations in the last months, it came out that a politician of the Left charged the fiscal receipt of the purchase of a jar of Nutella on the reimbursement of electoral expenses. Which, technically could be also legal (that jar of Nutella could be used within some kind of public event tied to the electoral campaign - i don't know...). But this expense won't ever be accepted by somebody that works hard long hours to feed his children. Of course these investigations found also bigger and more evident illegal expenses, but this case of the Nutella jar, in my opinion, is emblematic.

Parliamentarian immunity

Immunita' Parlamentare is a law that protects the Deputies/Senators and the main institutional offices of the State restricting the Judical power of the Magistrature. In theory this is done to avoid interferences among the Three Powers (Executive, Legislative, Judical), making so that the investigations about some kind of crimes cannot condition the work of the Parliament.
This law is often criminally used to protect against the public Justice, and so it has the opposite effect of making interference into the works of the Parliament.
For example Berlusconi is now under process. Everybody know he is a corrupter. For some crimes he has already be condemned (although the penalty have been invalidated by prescription). Now he is investigated about some rake-off he paid for "buying" some deputies (De Gregorio case) and for underage prostitution (Ruby case). His political games, so, are to try to obtain an institutional charge as soon as possible so that he can abuse of Parliamentarian immunity until the crime will be prescribed.
Of course citizens are kind of pissed about this behavior, and in general about this law. A normal person cannot understand why to submit to some laws while there are other people that can do pretty much whatever they want unpunished. The law should be the same for everyone, or not?

This is the context in which we went to vote last February. I'll tell my interpretations and opinions on the result in the next (and hopefully last) post. Stay tuned!

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