Thursday, October 20, 2016

4 December: NO to RENZI’S P2 Constitutional Reform

On 4 December 2016 Italian electors will be called to vote on a Referendum on Constitutional reform and a new electoral law. The question posed to electors is: “Do you approve the text of the constitutional law concerning ‘norms for overcoming perfect bicameralism, the reduction in the number of parliamentarians, the containment of the costs of institutions, the abolition of CNEL [the advisory National Council for Economy and Labour] and the revision of Title V of Part II of the Constitution’ approved by the Italian Parliament and published in the Official Gazette n. 88 of 15 April 2016?" YES/NO. Being a confirmation and not an abrogation Referendum no quorum is required for its validity.
Such a question is tendentious. The constitutional law in question does not abolish the Senate, it simply transforms perfect bicameralism into asymmetric (and less directly democratic) bicameralism, turning the Senate into a Chamber elected by a selectorate of mayors and regional councillors among themselves, instead of being elected directly by “the people” as art. 1 of the 1948 Constitution provides. What the new law abolishes is the Senate’s power to bring down the government in a confidence vote, while retaining for the proposed Senate dual legislative powers on a broad range of questions, from local issues to European directives. The number of senators is reduced from 395 to 100 (21 mayors, 74 regional councillors and 5 nominated by the President) but there is almost no reduction in cost; far from the €500mn boasted of by Renzi, it is officially estimated at €50mn a year – equivalent to one day of Italian military expenditure, or a fraction of the tax that FIAT avoids by moving its headquarters to the Netherlands. And even that tiny cost reduction in keeping the Senate at all is matched by the only part time involvement (two days per month) of the new senators most of whose time naturally is taken up by their local administrative duties. The 630 members of the lower Chamber with their generous salaries, golden pensions and handshakes, bonuses, allowances and expenses entitlements, remain untouched.  
Il Fatto Quotidiano (11 October) proposes spelling out and unbundling the long mixed question drafted by the government asking specifically whether electors approve:
·  the abolition of elections for the Senate, which will be made up of mayors and regional councillors nominated by regional Councils i.e. by parties, not elected by the electorate, and empowered to legislate in the face of popular sovereignty;
·  the concession of parliamentary immunity (from surveillance, arrest and prosecution) to mayors and regional councillors nominated as senators without ever having been elected as legislators and therefore not entitled to that privilege;
·  the complication of methods for law approval, passing from 2 to 10, or to 7, 9 or 13 according to the interpretation given to the incomprehensible text of the reform;
·  the trebling, from 50,000 to 150,000, of the number of signatures needed to introduce a law by popular initiative;
·  the survival of a Senate that will be able to or be compelled to – according to the subject matter – re-vote and modify all the laws approved by the Chamber of Deputies, replicating and complicating the bicameralism (even in its reformed asymmetry rather than current parity) that is alleged to be abrogated;
·  the expropriation of the powers of Regions to protect their populations, territories, security and environment from useless large-scale, costly and polluting public works (such as the Turin-Lyon TAV, the Third Crossing [Valico], the bridge on the Messina Strait, oil drilling on land and at sea, regasification plants, etc.) which will be decided by the Prime Minister in Rome alone and in command.
In order to raise YES support falling behind in the South and on the Right Matteo Renzi has just resurrected the multibillion euro project of the longest suspension bridge in the world connecting Sicily with the mainland, associated with Silvio Berlusconi’s premiership, and which Renzi had fiercely opposed in 2012. The project was abandoned in 2013 because of its high costs and dubious benefits, it being a long-term mafia objective, and the strait’s vulnerability to earthquakes. There are more pressing needs and better growth-promoting projects in anti-seismic investment, rail and road transport improvements, and environmental protection and reclamation. Tony Barber in the Financial Times spoke of Renzi’s reforms as the “constitutional bridge to nowhere” – nicely put were it not for the fact that opening to the mafia does not lead to nowhere but to the further criminalisation of the Italian state.

On 16 October Andrea Camilleri, Gustavo Zagrebelsky, Nadia Urbinati, Paolo Flores d’Arcais and Tomaso Montanari, Why we vote NO, posed the question that is really being asked in the referendum:

“Do you want to count less, to have less democracy, to give a free hand?”.

“We will answer NO,” they write, “… We do not want to give a free hand to this or to any other government. An inept and often corrupt political class tries to convince us that the Constitution is at fault, but this is not true. To those who tell us that to make Italy work it is necessary to change the rules we answer: we, instead, want to change the players”.


The present Parliament was elected on the strength of electoral law 270 of 21 December 2005, named after its Lega proponent, Roberto Calderoli, and better known as the Porcellum from the name (una porcata, a pig’s breakfast) attached to it by the proponent himself, which in January 2014 was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court (Sentence 1/2014). Continuity of state power required that Parliament should continue to be legitimate in its functioning, but it is highly questionable whether the current Parliament should have done anything other than at most pass a new electoral law before being dissolved by the President, who was himself elected by the current unconstitutional Parliament, moreover for a second mandate not envisaged (although not specifically forbidden) by the Constitution. Instead of which the unconstitutional Parliament with Napolitano’s prodding launched itself at a major constitutional reform changing one third of our Constitution.

Moreover, since its unconstitutional election in February 2013 the Italian Parliament has achieved the unenviable record of containing 246 turncoats (voltagabbana in Italian) Members of Parliament changing sides, many of them more than once reaching a total of 325 crossings of the floor, equivalent to about one third of the combined membership of the Lower Chamber and the Senate (and rising weekly). Berlusconi, a pioneer in establishing a market for parliamentarians, purchased support that was decisive in toppling the Prodi government. With this kind of tradition there is no way even the majority premium envisaged by the new Constitution can guarantee a stable majority.

So the new Constitution dice are loaded in favour of an authoritarian regime, where the leader of the party enjoying a guaranteed 55% majority in the Lower Chamber, who will be mostly his own nominees under the party list electoral system, in addition to his and his party’s new-Constitution Senate nominees, can play an exceptionally powerful role in appointing: the Head of State, the members of the Constitutional Court, the members of the Higher Council of Magistrates (CSM), the leading Authorities responsible for sectoral functions, the RAI Board of Directors etc.; as well as legislating and exercising executive power without having to face any real opposition. And, as the UK has found, the collapse of the Labour Party and its subsequent failure to realise a real opposition has adverse consequences for the country, and for Europe.

Gustavo Zagrebelsky, the former President of the Constitutional Court, states that the combination of the new electoral law (the so called Italicum, whereby 2/3 of deputies will be nominated by party leaders), and the reforms linked to it by a YES in the Referendum would remove the checks and balances so judiciously introduced in the post-Fascist 1948 Constitution to prevent any return of authoritarianism of any kind, and create the conditions for “a shift from democracy to oligarchy”. Indeed, under Italicum a party commanding only 20%-25% of the votes in the first ballot might access a second ballot and beat the only other remaining competitor, thus gaining the winner’s premium to end up with a statutory 55% majority.

The concept of oligarchy must not be confused with that of minority. Government is always necessarily exercised by a minority, but whether or not this is an oligarchy depends on whether power is exercised for the benefit of that ruling minority and its goals, or for the collective benefit of society, in which case it is not an oligarchy but a representative democracy – as the historian Emilio Gentile observed in his rebuttal of Eugenio Scalfari, the Repubblica editorialist’s crass claim that oligarchy is the only possible form of democracy. Moreover – as Gentile pointed out – any democracy is intensely vulnerable to the oligarchic globalisation of economic and financial powers interfering with national policy-making, a major constituent of the “post-democracy” theorised by Colin Crouch. The risk is of a democracy in which the people are only comparse (extras) acting an insignificant part on the political stage at the time of the election leaving the exercise of power to party and government oligarchies, demagogic leaders, a corrupt political class, a degraded political culture and the method of populist slogans and announcements.

Renzi is simply the current mouthpiece and tool for the implementation of the Piano di Rinascita Democratica (Plan for Democracy Reborn), an authoritarian project initiated in Italy by Licio Gelli of the P2 secret Masonic Lodge (drafted around 1976, published in 1982), and pursued by Craxi, Cossiga, Berlusconi, Napolitano, with the blessing of international financial circles such as JP Morgan (2013), not to mention the support obtained through undue interference by the US Ambassador and Barack Obama in his role as the President of the US.

JP Morgan claimed that in Europe “Constitutions tend to show a strong socialist influence, reflecting the political strength that left wing parties gained after the defeat of fascism. Political systems around the periphery typically display several of the following features: weak executives; weak central states relative to regions; constitutional protection of labor rights; consensus building systems which foster political clientalism [sic]; and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo. The shortcomings of this political legacy have been revealed by the crisis.”  The Renzi regime’s attempted scrapping of the Italian 1948 Constitution is custom-tailored to JP Morgan’s specifications. 

For my part, I will vote a convinced NO, and encourage all my readers who have a vote to do the same on 4 December next.

48 comments:

Unknown said...

An excellent analysis of the Italian Referendum. Please supply also an Italian version, or tell us where it available!!!

Ugo Pagano said...

Forgot my name: Ugo Pagano.
Congratulations for your piece Mario!



MB said...

I share every word of your post. It is important precisely because it is in English. Any Italian who is determined enough to find out what is going on can consult lots of useful sources, some of which have been linked in the post. But internationally there seems to be a campaign of disinformation, aimed both at shifting the vote of Italians abroad (eg Boschi's trip to Latin America) and to obtain the endorsement of world leaders, like Obama. Therefore thanks.

LC said...

I share your stance. I like the way you clarified the various thorny issues.

D. Mario Nuti said...

It loooks like I have been preaching to the converted. I hope some undecided reader might be persuaded to answer NO.

N.A. said...

Bello. Grazie.

VT said...

Brilliant. If I had any doubt on the referendum, you eliminated it.

Nicola Rubino said...

Nice post professor. Stating facts and underlying all the nonsense in this new proposal of bicameralism as well as the issues concerning the current system. Cheers

Rocco said...

Very well, but I cannot bring myself to side with Renato Brunetta.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Why, Rocco, would you be more comfortable with Verdini as a bedfellow? I am not fond of Brunetta any more than you are, but look at it this way: on the day after the Referendum, if NO wins you would be in bad company but the 1948 Constitution would still protect you; if YES wins you would be in bad company but the 1948 Constitution would not protect you anymore.

Marilena said...

Great explanation of the "real" questions we will be facing on December, 4. It makes clear what really is at stake!
If you have an Italian version I will post it on my facebook page.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Thanks, Marilena, and Nicola and all the other supporters. I will try and provide an Italian translation, but in the meantime you could try out the various links to Italian sources given in the post.

PP said...

I read your post with great interest: it strengthened my decision to vote NO.
By the way, you and especially Italian readers might find useful the e-book by Stefano Semplici, on the new Constitution. http://mondodomani.org/costituzione/la_nuova_costituzione.pdf

Martino said...

You say Renzi estimated savings from constitutional reform to be €500mn. Actually he claimed 1bn cost savings, it was Minister Boschi who cut the estimate to €500mn. Unfortunately the State Accounting Agency (Ragioneria Generale dello Stato) on 28 October 2014 published an estimate produced at the request of Minister Boschi, of only €57.7.mn savings, of which only €40mn from senators' salaries, and 6.7mn from the abolition of CNEL. Savings from the abolition of provinces were declard to be impossible to assess.

D. Mario Nuti said...

€8.7mn from the abolition of CNEL in the Ragioneria's estimate, actually, instead of the €20mn envisaged. All lies, yes.

Roman said...

In last Sunday's Repubblica Eugenio Scalfari claimed that President Mattarella at a meeting in the Quirinale had tild him that he supported the end of perfect bilateralism and the YES vote in the Referendum. Is this compatible with the supposed super partes role of the President?

D. Mario Nuti said...

They are both very old men. God only knows what they actually said to each other and what they understood. The answer to your question is probably no, since the President is sworn to defend the Constitution. But does it matter? The truble with Mattarella is that he is the spitting image of Luigi di Bella (1912-2003) who claimed to have found a new miracle therapy for cancer based on a cocktail of hormons and vitamines, very popular in the media in the late 1990s and later found to be "ineffective and possibly dangerous" by the Health Higher Council. At the very least Mattarella should shave his hair or dye it black to gain public credibility.

nasissimo said...

Being in Agreement with every word of this, I'd like to point out a detail. It seems that the "perfect bicameralism" is *the* problem of Italian system, and needs to be overcomed. It seems nobody has any doubt about it: the question is only how to reach the task.
Nobody notes that it is strange that Men who wrote the Constitution in 1948 did not note the fact that two branches of parliament making same things would be redundant.
In the meantime, everybody seems to agree that we have too many laws: we have even a simplification ministry.
But theese "indubitable" statements are in contraddiction, aren't they?

D. Mario Nuti said...

If Renzi had really wanted to end perfect bicameralism and reduce both the number of parlamentarians and the cost of politics, instead of trying to increase and prolongue his own power in government, all he had to do was abolish the Senate, halve the number of members of the Lower Chamber and (as M5S proposed today but of course failed to have accepted) halve their salaries.

Too many laws, yes, and badly drafted, but this is another matter; the envisaged asymmetric bicameralism is not necessarily going to end this.

nasissimo said...

Sure it is not. My point is that speeding up legislative process goes in the opposite direction of the needed, if our goal is having less but more thoughtful and well drafted laws.
Are we sure that this task (to accelerate legislative procedures) is really urgent and useful, and that the perfect bicameralism is a mistake to be absolutely corrected? I am not.

D. Mario Nuti said...

I see now, clearly I misunderstood. And I agree that, in any case, with all the problems confronting Italy at the moment, the abolition of perfect bicameralism is a very low priority and can be counterproductive.

Rino said...

You are right, Mattarella looks like Di Bella's double... a new line for Crozza!

D. Mario Nuti said...

"Priciso 'ntifico" - as Andrea Camilleri would say.

Alberto Chilosi said...

Dear Mario, it seems to me that you have a peculiar concept of democracy. According to the constitutional reform senators are elected by the regional councillors who are themselves directly elected. If this is undemocratic, the present constitution is very undemocratic indeed. The most powerful political authorities of the state, the president of the republic, the prime minister, the ministers are not directly elected. Not to speak of the other very powerful allegedly non-political authorities such as the members of the Constitutional Court or the director of the Bank of Italy. As to the companionship of the No voters, Brunetta is not so much relevant, I agree, but what about the trio Berlusconi, Grillo and Salvini? Not really a nice bunch.
As to your right criticism of having the new Senate members endowed with parliamentary immunity, as well as with maintenance of the privileges of the present lower Chamber members, I agree, but the positive side is that the number of those benefited by parliamentary immunity is substantially reduced with the abolition of the present Senate. Moreover you should consider that it is not easy to have the turkeys to vote for Christmas or the Thanksgiving feast. Politics, indeed, is the art of the possible.

Anonymous said...

The government has just provided €6omn public funds to finance the Ryder Cup - a golf tournament - under the heading "Youth and Sport". This is more than the savings expected by the entire constitutional reform. Was it worth it?

D. Mario Nuti said...

True, 60mn cash (in addition to even larger guarantees, that had already been the object of criticism and postponement) for the benefits of Federgolf and the GolfClub hosting the 2022 Ryder Cup. Scandalous. Scurrilous. Yet another reason - if you still needed one - to vote NO on 4 December.

Len said...

Both Oresidents Napolitano and Mattarella swore loyalty to the Constitution. Does their endorsement of its destruction make them perurers?

D. Mario Nuti said...

Both Presidents, yes.

NN said...

TV Broadcasts dedicated to the Referendum debate appear to satisfy the par condicio, roughly giving the same time to YES and NO representatives. But the Renzi government is disproportionally over-represented in all news programmes, talk shows and other TV broadcasts, impar conditio prevails. Plus we have disconcerting news of the vote manipulation of Italians abroad. And international rumours about the catastrophe that would follow a NO vote (see Munchau on the FT, and the WSJ). Not "par" at all.

D. Mario Nuti said...

You are right, no "par" at all. We can only hope that electors' fatigue induced by exposure to excess propaganda might backfire against Renzi.

Professor Guido Ortona commented via e-mail that the transition from a bicameral to a monocameral system should have been preceded by the clarification and strenghtening of democratic guarantees. Instead of which there is complete uncertainty about the electoral law under which the Chamber of Deputies will be elected; the Constitutional Court will rule on the legitimacy of the Italicum only after the Referendum; Renzi is committed to alter it – for fear that the 5Star movement might obtain an absolute majority on a second ballot – but has not indicated in which direction. At least if the NO prevails we know that the so-called Porcellum will be replaced with the former Mattarellum legislation, i.e. with a proportional system subject to a threshold.

D. Mario Nuti said...

If you are still undecided about how to vote in the referendum of 4 December, look up
https://constitution-unit.com/2016/10/13/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-italian-constitutional-referendum/
and
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21710816-country-needs-far-reaching-reforms-just-not-ones-offer-why-italy-should-vote-no
and Vote Early, Vote Often.

Aurèlia Mañé Estrada said...

Thank you, Mario for your explanation about the referendum in Italy!

D. Mario Nuti said...

Thank you Aurélia!

All is well that ends well. Renzi was resoundingly defeated yesterday, with the NO winning 60-40 per cent, on a vast turnout of 65%. Renzi says he will resign as Prime Minister. Thanks to my readers for their support.

Put said...

If it ends well, but it has not ended yet. President Mattarella asked Renzi to stay on until the Budget is approved, Renzi is still PD Secretary, people say that he represents 40% of the electorate while the remaining 60% is deeply divided... Do not write Renzi off prematurely.

D. Mario Nuti said...

Renzi did resign after all, though perhaps he should have faced Parliament instead. So far Mattarella only asked him to stay on for two days to see through the approval of the budget law and assistance to earthquake victims. That Renzi's government would continue to function as caretaker for current administrative tasks is a matter of established routine.

As PD Secretary Renzi advocated either early elections after the Constitutional Court's ruling on the new electoral law Porcellum on 24 January, or a "national responsibility" government to complete the legislature and approve a new electoral law (an option that was immediately rejected by most parties). Presumably a new electoral law might be pieced together before 24 January. The worrying thing is that Mattarella might ask Renzi's government to go back to seek Parliamentary approval, or ask Renzi to form the next government. This would be a terrible expression of contempt for the 60% of the electorate that voted NO in the referendum, but Mattarella might at last reveal his true colours.

Alberto Chilosi said...

"This would be a terrible expression of contempt for the 60% of the electorate that voted NO in the referendum"

Why? we are still in a parliamentary democracy, happily not yet in a populist direct democracy based on plebicites and referenda, and the great charismatic clownish leader is still only lurking in the background.

D. Mario Nuti said...

It would be a terrible expression of contempt for the 60% of the electorate who voted NO because 1) it would be the fourth unelected Premier after Monti, Letta, Renzi I; 2) Renzi personalised the referendum declaring both at the beginning and towards the end of his campaign that he would leave if he lost, and he lost spectacularly; 3) because the fact that the YES got 40% of the votes does not mean at all that he commands that sigree of support among voters.

By the way, in my earlier comment I wrote Porcellum, but I meant Italicum.

Alberto Chilosi said...

"it would be the fourth unelected Premier after Monti, Letta, Renzi" The fact that the premier should be elected by the electorate is a Berlusconesque phantasy that does not find support in our constitutional system.The government (and thus the premier) is voted by the majority of the parliament, not directly by the electorate. We are, so long it lasts, in a parliamentary not in a populist democracy. If you look at our post-war history before Berlusconi nobody cared specifically for the fact who the premier was going to be, there was no personalization of the electoral process such as that initiated by Berlusconi. Let Berlusconi retire in peace together with the Olgettine.

D. Mario Nuti said...

You are confusing legality with decency, Alberto. "If I lose the referendum I will not just go home, I will leave politics altogether", Renzi had said. Instead of which he is still around. David Cameron could have staid on after the Brexit referendum, but he had the decency to resign both as party leader and as Premier. Renzi is indecent, period.

Ruby said...

If Renzi's determination to stay on as PD Secretary is indecent, what about Maria Elena Boschi, tipped to continue to be a Minister in the Gentiloni government?

D. Mario Nuti said...

Doubly indecent, even if limited to Equal Opportunities and Relations with Parliament. I hope it is only a rumour inspired by Renzi's enemies. Otherwise the PD will pay the consequences of such stupid arrogance.

Nico said...

On Boschi, even La Repubblica agrees with you: see http://www.repubblica.it/politica/2016/12/12/news/ministra_boschi_riforma_bocciata_rinuncia_necessaria-153940011/?ref=twhr&timestamp=1481550350000&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

D. Mario Nuti said...

The Gentiloni government turned out to be a cut and paste replica of Renzi's, only much worse.

Maria Elena Boschi, who had solemnly declared on television that she would resign from politics together with Renzi if the Referendum was defeated, has been promoted to what is effectly the post of Deputy Premier, n.2 in government. Anna Finocchiaro, who had been vetoed by Renzi as Head of State candidate as representing the "casta", has been rewarded for her part in devising the defeated reform, taking up Boschi's responsibilities for relations with Parliament.

Angelino Alfano has been promoted as Minister for Foreign Affairs, in spite of his only qualification for the post being his complicity with the Kazak government in the kidnapping of a Kazak citizen and her little daughter. A close friend of Renzi, Luca Lotti, is Minister for Sport, with responsibility also for funding publishers and the press. The Education Minister Valeria Fedeli claims to have a non-existent degree in Social Sciences, the Health Minister Lorenzin responsible for the ill-fated Fertility Day has been retained, together with a bunch of other worthless courtiers.

Renzi is said to favour new elections in June. By then this provocation to the electorate will not have been forgotten, the PD will be paying a high price for Gentiloni's exploits.

Alberto Chilosi said...

There is an illustrious precedent to the statement (or promise) to retire from politics in the near future: Giuliano Amato in 1992.
As always in Italy the problem lies in the concretely possible outside option, which presently looks much worse than the PD government. Previously the alternative was Berlusconi, presently Grillo and Salvini. Which one do you care for?

D. Mario Nuti said...

The record period without a government was achieved by Belgium in 2011-2013 with 589 days. I would prefer that alternative to Renzi, his friends and relatives and his clones.

Alberto Chilosi said...

And after the 589 days?

Alberto Chilosi said...

There is an improvement in the Gentiloni government though: Verdini and his parliamentary group are not part of it.

D. Mario Nuti said...

After 589 days a few octuagenarians probably will have bowed out. Defeat in the forthcoming referendum on the Jobs Act may teach something to PD politicians, coming after defeat in administrative elections and a resounding defeat in the constitutional referendum. The PD Congress might produce some surprises. Some people who had promised to withdraw from politics might retire after all, for their own good, and spend more time with their families. Angelino Alfano might at least learn some English, and Valeria Fedeli might get a degree after all. M5S might be willing to ally with others and learn the ways of democracy. Trump might indirectly benefit Europe (Italy will probably benefit from a cheaper Euro than Germany). Things are unlikely to stay as bad as they are now.