I don’t think that in other European countries political leaders boast publicly that they are good at bringing down governments. In Italy, Matteo Renzi has done it. ‘It is not a Giorgia stai serena,’ the leader of Fratelli d’Italia warned a few days ago, ‘but for statistics: every two years I have brought down a government.
Renzi is certainly better at this sport than many others. But he is not alone in practising it. Which explains another all-Italian originality. As many as four former prime ministers and two former vice-presidents are participating in this election campaign as leaders of their respective parties: Berlusconi, Letta, Renzi, Conte, Salvini and Di Maio. Which is an eloquent testimony to the historical carnage of Italian governments and the reciprocal game of assassination:
Letta was brought down by Renzi, whose failure paved the way for Conte, whom Salvini knocked down, and then Renzi put back up, until Draghi came along, whom Conte, Berlusconi and Salvini all cheerfully knocked down. It sounds like Branduardi’s nursery rhyme: Alla fiera dell’Est, with what follows.
Since they all kick each other out, they all come back. Usually in other countries a defeated politician leaves the scene; with us he prepares to re-enter it. Sometimes the threat of a government crisis is even pre-emptive, in the sense that it arrives when the government has not yet been formed. The other day Berlusconi told ‘Mrs Meloni and the gentlemen allies’ that if they become anti-European, he will leave the government (which will come). And Renzi knows very well that he can threaten Giorgia Meloni to drop her after a year or two because he has sniffed the inherent weakness of the centre-right, which is divided especially on foreign policy. He therefore calculates that after the elections the radicalisation of the potential losers, Salvini on the one hand and the Pd on the other (where a race will open to find not a new Macron, but a new Mélenchon) will open up a chasm in the centre, which will take the ground from under Meloni’s feet.
Exaggerated? Perhaps. The fact is that even the director of Libero Alessandro Sallusti, a journalist who is not easily fooled, yesterday wrote a eulogy of the young Florentine’s astuteness, inviting us to take him seriously: perhaps out of admiration, perhaps because he is genuinely concerned about the situation that is being created in his part of the world.