Kicking and Screaming: A Guide to Italian Politics

When speaking with any Italian, the conversation will consistently devolve into politics, and I don’t blame them: there is a lot to talk about.

I have observed far too many political inefficiencies that could be easily remedied, and have been, in North America, the UK, most of Northern Europe, and the urbanized Asian countries. To my knowledge, Spain is really the only other country capable of making similar changes that hasn’t, so hey, at least we’re not in it alone. Another country is making horrible decisions with us, and I’m sure that together we can pull Germany and the rest of the EU into crippling debt within the next ten years. But shhh, don’t tell them their politicians are all still Fascist – they don’t seem to know that. (While this article is technically observable opinion, I don’t make statements without doing my research. If you’d like to read more on Berlusconi and the continued dominance of right-wing thinking in Italy, please follow any and all links you see in this paragraph – the evidence is well-founded.)

Here is a swift break-down of Italian political theory, put in easy to understand click-bait-title terms: You Will Fall Out Of Your Chair In Shock At How Many Political Parties There Are In This One Small Country. God, how I despise click-bait.

To save you the click, which will redirect you to a Wikipedia list of every active political party in Italy, (and a list of past coalitions), I’ll just tell you the number of parties that the average citizen had the option to vote for in the last general election (2013):


I’ll just give you a moment to wrap your head around that number; in the meantime, let’s consider the politics of other first-world democracies. If you live in Canada, like I do, you know that there are really only three major parties to pay attention to, and of the three, the Conservatives and the Liberals have dominated much of the vote for an exceptionally long time. The same is true for Britain if you swap out the NDP for the Labour Party. If you live in the United States, you know that there are the Democrats and the Republicans, with the country almost literally divided in half between the two ideologies. I still struggle to understand how this can be when every week I see a new article about how Ted Cruz did something stupid, like insulting the current Vice President days after his son died. At the very least, American politics are entertaining, (#thanksObama).

My point here though is that there is an unhealthy amount of “choice” for Italian citizens where their governing body is concerned, and the result is that the country cannot, and has not functioned in a cohesive manner since the days of Mussolini. Consider that since 1945, no one party has ever had the chance of gaining power alone. Coalitions are the only reality that faces Italian governments, and the result is that decisions are seldom reached. Even if the current Prime Minister wanted to make changes, his Senate would inevitably be divided, as each member has his own loyalties already sworn to the man backing his position.

—-> *Just a quick fun fact, one of the more liberal parties is run by comedian Beppe Grillo, and the Love Party is run by an ex-porn star.*

To confuse you even further, Italy has both a Prime Minister and a President. The Prime Minister is essentially the leader of the country, and runs the Senate, which draws up and debates bills to be passed as laws – but first they must have the signed approval of the President. This man is the Commander in Chief, so to speak, and once the bill reaches him, he may send it back to the Senate with his changes. The kicker here is that the Senate may review the proposals, lob the bill right back over the fence to him, just as it was before, and the good ol’ Presidente has no choice but to approve it, as he is not permitted to send it back a second time. You can see why it might take a really long time to get anything done here when no one actually has any power.

Add to this the dilemma of taxes in this country. Now, because of a progressive tax regime, the more money you make, the more you pay in taxes. Sounds fair, right? Until you learn that Italians have been paying an average of 46.65% as a Personal Income Tax Rate since 1995, and the current rate is now 47.90%. It can reach up to 71% on the high end of the scale.

Remember this graph the next time you complain about taxes in North America.GRAPH

Arguments have been had over every family dinner about who is doing what, why they’re right or wrong, and the conclusions reached at the end of the night are always the same: Italy is an unorganized mess of politicians, corporations, and desperately needs reform. And as the arguments wind down, we quietly sip our espresso night-caps, and realize that with the current system as it is, change is about as likely as Matt Damon acting like a reasonable person on a spaceship.

I now understand why Italians drink.





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