Why Italy will never be ‘normal’

Image from: vivaholidays.com.au

Living in Italy for many years has made me fluent in many things. I negotiate the nuances of the Italian language, roll my ‘r’s’ with the best of them, I navigate my way around the kitchen with a respectable repertoire of Mediterranean dishes, I can steer my way through the traffic of any chaotic city, squeezing my car into to the tiniest parking space and double park without any sense of guilt, I understand the Italians desire to live their lives with a little insanity, rebellion and a whole lot of attitude. In short I’ve conquered the most important aspects of life here. However I still have a problem understanding the schizophrenic world of Italian politics.

My concept of politics has been formed by the moderate environment of Australian government, the main factions are dominated by the two conservative Liberal and Labor parties who overshadow other lesser significant groups such as the Democrats and the Greens. Voting in Oz means choosing between, the Liberals at the centre right and Labor in the centre left, who as time passes seem to become increasingly like one another. The antipodean political world is terribly monochrome when compared to the rainbow of Italian politics.

Image from: reuters.com

The politics of a country reflects its very nature. Australian politics is stable with a steady flow of different concerns which reflect a healthy, growing and relatively secure country. Politics in Australia is a safe and conservative, in contrast to Italy which struggles with the problems of an immense population, a convoluted legal system, high unemployment and administrative system stained with corruption and scandal. 

Italy like any other overpopulated country is crippled by mindless red tape and so bending the rules has become part of its culture. An Italian won’t think twice about a little deceit to help things move along. Paying a little something extra to get a house plan approved is considered normal as months or even years of delays are common when going through normal planning procedures.

 Traffic near Giardini

Italians are forced to put up with endless problems and in many cases the only way to get results is through active political action. Italy is weighed down by high unemployment and those who do work in the country’s industrial sectors are always in a precarious situation. This lack of stability has created large conglomerates of workers unions who regularly bring the country to a stop with transport strikes. 

Electioneering in Italy boils down to creating a public image, voters do not necessarily vote for an established party or ideology but rather for a personality. The constant change of Italian politics has broken down traditional political philosophies so the only way people are able negotiate the complexities of Italy’s politics is to latch onto a figure head or personality. 

The European parliament election this Sunday is really a test of the current turbulent political waters as Beppe Grillo’s Movimento Cinque Stelle has eliminated and splintered many major and small parties in the last national election. The five star movement came about as a protest to eliminate elements of corruption, conflict of interest violations in the established old school political landscape which dominated Italian politics. Everyone will be holding their breath to see if the older parties will be able to recover or if the new movement will be able to push through with its changes. 

Image from: time.com

The current prime minister Matteo Renzi of the conservative leftist PD party, recently gave an interview to Time Magazine journalist Stephan Faris where he explained why Italy will never be a normal country, there is truth in Renzi’s words and he expresses the nature of the change needed in this country starting with these European elections.

Renzi says: Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice. There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world.

But then, we’re not a normal country because we have a complicated bureaucracy, a political system that’s appalling. We have twice as many parliamentarians as the United States. We pay some presidents of [administrative] regions more than the United States pays its president. We would like to make Italy a normal country from the point of view of the political system.

So where did Italy go wrong?

It fails in its convoluted public administration.

And in its politics. Italy has too many politicians.

Why? Because in these years Italy has been unable to change itself.

The UK changed its skin with Tony Blair. Germany changed skin first with [Gerhard] Schröder and then with [Angela] Merkel. The U.S. has changed its skin various times. But Italy remains attached to its old political conservatism. It has a political class that lives in the past and doesn’t want build the future. The past is their strength, but it risks ruining the country forever. It Italy continues to walk with their heads turned backwards, there can be no improvement.

Voting in Italy is not compulsory so the election’s have a low turn out as people are disillusioned by the political world. And with the economic crisis people in Italy are really suffering. So we simply need to hold your breath and wait to see the direction Italy will take…


12 thoughts on “Why Italy will never be ‘normal’

  1. An interesting post – I love Italy and their “craziness” is one of the reasons. It’s not always a good thing though and for their own economy, it does seem that they need to “shed some skin.”


    1. Yes, there a lots of changes to be made. I think if the country has the courage to make the changes needed Italians will have the character to make Italy one of the best places in the world. Interesting times ahead!


  2. Spain has similar problems. In all the years I’ve lived in the UK and in Germany, I’ve never heard anyone use the term “political class” referring to politicians. Anyone can become a politician, there’s no “class” of people who have preferred access, or at least not in any obvious way. Different thing here in Spain. And, of course, politicians are reviled to a much greater degree in Spain than they are in the UK and in Germany.


  3. Thank you for explaining the Italian political system for us, it’s been a mystery to me for years despite the fact that most papers are full if the various machinations between and within the parties!! Great post, thanks!


  4. I don’t understand why Italians aren’t screaming for change. I love this country, especially the eccentricities, but they are resting on the achievements of the past. It is time for young Italians to stand up and demand a better system. I hope Renzi can do something.
    On a local level, our mayor is completely useless and has done nothing in the 2 years he has been in power. It now seems he is giving money to a group of his friends for a project that nobody wants or needs. It is blatant corruption that everyone can see, but it appears that nobody has the gets to stand up to him.
    I will never understand Italy.


  5. Really enjoyed that post, I was only just asking my boyfriend and our italian friend last night how the political system worked, but they couldn’t really explain it to me themselves! This has been really knowledgeable! Thank you!! 🙂


    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I’m still struggling with politics here in Italy it has a complex and often violent history. There is a little hope that the endless political parties will begin to disappear and hopefully the debating can end and the reforms can begin!


Comments are closed