Authored by Miki Pannell
The bloodless coup d’ètat in Italy proves that any semblance of popular democracy in the EU is pure pantomime. The show is still run by a ruling class of corporate overlords, financial oligarchs, and central banker accomplices. EU democracy is effectively invalidated by an army of 82,096 lobbyists, 11,327 pressure groups and an entrenched class of political mobsters.
It’s not often that we agree with Paul Krugman, but his recent tweet scolding Europe’s elites for denying office to the legitimately elected would-be Italian government is, for once, on the money.
When Italy’s March election saw the more traditional centralist parties take a major ballot box battering, the winners of the greatest number of seats embarked on a two month negotiation marathon that eventually produced a potential coalition government, made up of the two most unlikely bed-fellows. The horse trading, if you like, had spawned a donkey. But it was, nevertheless, a democratic donkey. At least it was until the long awaited announcement was overruled by Italian president Sergio Matterella. The president holds the right to veto any government, to supposedly keep the selection in line with the constitution, in a similar way that the Queen of England must technically give royal assent to every law passed in Britain. Yet while the British monarch’s privilege is all but symbolic, the Italian Head of State now acts as a kind of all-powerful emperor, willing and able to supersede any decisions made my democratic riff-raff such the general population. And that occurs pretty often considering the country has had some sixty-four prime ministers since the war. With Monti, Letta, Gentiloni and now Cottarelli, the country has experienced almost a full decade under unelected rulers.
The traditional parties who buckled under the weight of their own mediocrity – including Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Partito Democratico – did so at the expense of the Five Star Movement and the League. These two parties could barely be more incompatible.
The Five Star Movement, a charismatic bunch of upstarts founded by ex-comic Beppe Grillo, run a hard-line anti-establishment stance in spite of constantly shifting policies and flirtations with Euroskepticism. Grillo spent years mobilizing thousands at outdoor rallies with a potent mix of political rants and hilarious improvised comedy. Nothing was sacred. The party proposed some radical ideas including substituting traditional schooling for an online version (at least it sounded revolutionary in 2009) and promotes a variation on Universal Basic Income. The party constantly reinvented, then backtracked, on a whole range of excellently wacky policies, to the point where most are hard-pushed to explain what they are even voting for. Yet Five Star’s popularity has continued to gain traction.
Recently, rejection of the vote-for-cash mafia practices in the south has swollen the party’s popularity ratings, which is also fuelled by the cynicism of the country’s disenfranchised youth who prefer mass exodus abroad to exploitation in the grim local labour market. The German Home Office, for instance, claims a six-fold increase in the number of applications for residency from Italians.
The League, previous known as the Northern League, has likewise sought to capitalize on the country’s immigration woes. An influx of young blood into the labour market is precisely the cure for Italy’s geriatric demographic and the solution to the massive problem of pension contributions under-funding. The high end of the pensions spectrum represents huge state costs. A mere two terms in parliament guarantee an €8000 a month pension on retirement. With a massively bloated public administration full of overpaid senior civil servants, an entrenched political class and super-salaried top managers to look after, the public coffers never seemed so stretched. Now add in the fact that international market vultures are circling overhead and ratings agencies are looking at further downgrades and the subsequent raised borrowing costs… the future is looking increasingly bleak.
Yet the boatfuls of potential immigrant workers literally dying in thousands whilst in search of the European dream are viewed by many as the reason for the nation’s ills, not the saviours. Italians prefer the League’s promises of repatriation of sub-Saharan Africans. For a country that has had only 160 years of unity and has traditionally been the Mediterranean’s greatest cultural melting pot (as well as one of the world’s most numerous emigrant nations), Italy is surprisingly suspicious of foreigners.
The League promotes a sort of oxymoronic light-Fascism that appeals to the smart and the stupid alike, most of whom are convinced that some sort of more noble Northern breed is being corrupted by southern blood. Their logo and the superbly naff historical rewrites feature knights in armour with shields doing battle with the impure races. It’s like Monty Python’s Holy Grail without the humour. Until recently, for the League, the ‘immigrant’ enemy included the majority of Italians themselves, the party having fought for independence of ‘Padania’ which excluded everything south of the Po Valley which divides the rich industrial north, including Milan, from the rest of the country. However, waning popularity, together with founder Umberto Bossi getting busted one too many times, forced the party to look for fresh support from Mezzagiorno. The party dropped the traditional slogan ‘Roma ladron’ (Thieving Rome) and even managed to find a black politician to lend some type of multi-cultural credence to the party’s revamp. The suckers went for it and the League is now the second biggest political force after the Five Star Movement.
Italians cold-shouldered the traditional parties and ignored MSM’s smear campaigns against the non-establishment parties and voted en masse for the bad boys opposing the status quo. Yet the question remains as to whether it will have any discernable effect. Italy, like most other democracies, lives under the delusion that voting might actually change something. The democratic debacle in Italy highlights that the EU decides, not some wayward sovereign state. Neither is EU public policy decided by real people. The EU transparently admits that 11,327 special interest groups are at work trying to sway parliament by means of 82,096 official lobbyists, which amount (by their own estimates) to the equivalent of over 50,000 people working full time! (Official EU stats: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/eu-affairs/20180108STO91215/transparency-register-who-is-lobbying-the-eu-infographic ) Any semblance of popular democracy in Europe is verging on pure fantasy. The show is still run by a ruling class of corporate overlords, financial oligarchs, and their central bankers. Democracy is invalidated by their army of influencers, pressure groups and the pay-rolled political class. Let’s not kid ourselves otherwise.
Italy voted in the wrong parties, so the president refused and elected EU and IMF stooge Carlo Cottarelli to keep Italy from straying from the European banking cartel’s path. They will dress it up with an array of euphemisms: neutral, stop-gap, interim government etc. but the intervals are now longer than the pantomime. Goldman puppet Mario Monti remained ‘caretaker’ prime minister for a year and a half, as did Gentiloni, and Letta for almost a year too. This is akin to political squatting. They will call them technocrats, but, let’s tell it like it is: they are EU-friendly elite bankers. Democracy my ass.