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Italy: How will the elections be? We speak to the Secretary of the Italian Humanist Party

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Tony Manigrasso Segretario Generale del Partito UmanistaPartito Umanista

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We’d like to try to explain to the international public about the elections that are taking place in Italy on the 24th and 25th of February: elections looked at from abroad with a mixture of irony and amazement.  We do this with a special commentator: the General Secretary of the Humanist Party, Tony Manigrasso who has kindly lent himself to this not-so-easy task.  We try to do it by prioritising the description of the phenomenon.

Tony, one of the most debated issues in Italy is the change to an electoral law that its author has defined as “crap”; the law was not changed despite long debate.  Can you try to describe it and explain how the Humanist Party would change it?

The electoral law used to elect the Italian Parliament (The Chamber of Deputies and The Senate of the Republic), the so-called “Porcellum” establishes that the electoral lists of candidates are fixed: the voter cannot express any preference between the candidates in the list; this allows the parties that create the electoral lists to define in advance who they want their future elected representatives to be.  In other words the election of parliamentarians depends completely on the rankings established by the parties.  This is the third time that this system is being used and despite the fact that everyone is against it, no one has ever really wanted to change it.

The Humanist Party has always been in favour of a proportional system because it is the only system that allows for the representation of minorities.

So the future challenge is to find a system that has as its nucleus the responsibility of those elected.  Whoever gets elected should be linked to their electorate though mechanisms of direct democracy.  The representative democracy on which our Constitution is founded today is showing, and furthermore will demonstrate in the future, all of its limitations.

What are the main forces participating in these elections?  Can you describe them in summary?

In order to be fair we must speak of all of them, even the smallest, but surely here in this interview we don’t have space to do so.  In any case, the main forces present in these elections are the centre-left and centre coalitions, the centre-right, the “5 Star Movement” and “Civil Revolution”.

The centre-left is composed mainly of the “Democratic Party” and “Left Ecology Freedom” and their candidate for Prime Minister is Bersani: It’s a left coalition, but leaning towards the principles of neoliberalism and the policies of the worst financial Europeanism; in fact in the past, when they were in Government they did nothing substantially different to the centre-right coalition that preceded it.

The centre coalition is mainly made up of the “Centre Democratic Union” and “Future and Freedom” and their candidate for Prime Minister is Monti: it’s the coalition that is most strongly expressing the demands of speculative international finance.

The “Freedom Party” of Berlusconi and the “Northern League” together with other smaller lists are forming a centre-right coalition and formally no one knows who they will propose for Prime Minister (probably because there is no agreement between Berlusconi himself and the Northern League).  And it is above all thanks to this coalition which has governed throughout the greater part of recent years that the current situation in Italy is so disastrous.

The “5 Star Movement” is the novelty in recent years and it is constantly growing in approval; undoubtedly it has interesting demands and some of their proposals for direct democracy are convergent with ours, at least in appearance, but they are very far away in other things such as immigration.  Personally I have serious doubts about their organisation, which is very centralised and not at all transparent; everything is in the hands of the two leaders, the comedian Beppe Grillo and Roberto Casaleggio (who is very reluctant to speak in public) and they manage their movement in a way which contradicts their proposals, as if they’re trying to protect a trademark.

Ingroia, a former judge and candidate for President for the “Civil Revolution” list has gathered around him the small left parties (“Greens”, “Communist Reformation”, “The Party of Italian Communists”, “The Italy of Values”) which alone, almost certainly, would have no possibility to enter Parliament.  This force, created little more than 3 months ago to participate specifically in these elections, is located to the left of the Democratic Party.  Personally I think that this force has some points that are convergent with ours, but the presence of the traditional small parties makes it “old”, above all in the way of doing politics.

What is most likely to happen after the elections?

Most probably, but not for certain, the DP and the LEF will obtain the most votes, but it is not thought that they’ll have sufficient to govern.  One possible scenario is that the political lists that today seem to be on opposing sides, tomorrow find themselves governing together.  One thing is certain: whoever wins and governs will not change one comma of the process initiated in 1992 with the Maastrict Treaty that is leading the greater part of European countries to ruin.  Nevertheless, as in this case, the scenario is very unpredictable due to the presence of the 5SM that for sure this will break the equilibrium that has been established until today.

Why is the Humanist Party not present and what is the Humanist Party proposing to people?

The Humanist Party is not present with its own list due to the difficulties that are imposed by our current laws that don’t allow anybody to be a candidate.  We made an effort to present ourselves: we worked over the last year in the creation of a list with others who had programmes convergent to ours, but we had no success due to the economic resources that are needed to authenticate the signatures across Italy.  So, the Humanist Party is not supporting any list in these elections but instead is inviting anyone who doesn’t feel represented to join us in building a movement of workers and grassroots organisations who share the urgency of the following needs: in first place, direct democracy (as a tool for the reversal of today’s political and social situation), human rights (in its basic principles and details), the reconstruction of the welfare state (including healthcare and education, both public and of the highest level), a real economy, support for industry and small and medium-sized enterprises, work for all, the environment (its defence and activation of policies of work in this area), the right to housing, the defence of public wealth, activation of monetary policies to support solidarity, verification of the political responsibility of elected representatives and so on.  We must take control of our future with proposals that are not sceptical and which lead directly to the improvement of the real and everyday lives of people.

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