Sunday, 22 November 2015

VISTI DA FUORI: One Day Conference at the University of Urbino

The Italian Politcs Specialist Group is delighted to announce that its annual conference will be held by the University of Urbino (Italy) on the 18th of December 2015.

The event, entitled "Visti Da Fuori: Politics and Society in Italy as seen from abroad", has been organised in collaboration with LaPolis (Centre for Political and Social Studies), and will be hosted by the Department of Economic, Society and Politics. The conference will include an introduction by Ilvo Diamanti (director of LaPolis and Professor of Political Science), a keynote speech by the former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, as well as contributions from leading international academics, political commentators, think-tanks, journal editors, and journalists.

All the members of the IPSG executive committee will participate in the event, and will give presentations based on their current research, looking at issues such as the EU enlargement, decentralisation and regionalism, political parties, party systems and anti-politics. Their contributions aim at emphasising the importance of comparative analysis in furthering public awareness of political science, and the role of area expertise in supporting this. Such endeavour reflects the groups' objective of promoting the study of Italian politics not simply from a single-country perspective, but in a wider, international context.

A full programme for the day (in Italian) is available below.

Urbino, Italy

Thursday, 8 October 2015

PSA 2016 - Call for Papers - "Episode V: the Left Strikes Back"

66th PSA International Annual Conference
Brighton 21-23 March 2016

Call for Papers
Episode V: The Left Strikes Back

The SNP’s landslide victory in Scotland at the UK general elections in May 2015; Podemos’ performance in the Spanish local elections during the same month; more recently, Syriza’s second consecutive success at the Greek general elections on September 20and also Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader on 12 September 2015 can be viewed as signs of a ‘revitalisation’ of left.  
Notwithstanding the differences among these cases, these successes appear to have common roots. In particular, they appear to stem from a reaction against the neo-liberal autsterity policies which have been heralded as a ‘necessary evil’ by many centre-right parties in office across Europe. It is no coincidence that whilst weak macro-economic signals are now suggesting that the economy is gradually picking up again, the consensus of the left across Europe is increasing. 
Against this complex background, we feel that this ‘new leftist wave’ begs for a more in-depth investigation – not least because the cases outlined above embody very different understandings of core values, political agendas, public policy priorities, and attitudes towards grassroots politics and participative decision-making.  
This panel aims to assess whether the recent success of left-wing parties across Europe is only short-lived or if this can be read as a signal of a longer-term shift in electoral preferences. We invite papers that explore these topics, looking at Italy, the UK, Spain and Greece in a comparative perspective. Authors are invited to present analyses – based on strong theoretical and methodological frameworks – centred on (but not limited to) the following questions: What are the reasons that lie behind the electoral successes of left-wing parties in these countries, for instance to what extent have the use of new media, charismatic leadership and populist narratives played a role? What are the differences and commonalities between these cases? What are the tensions within these parties? How do these parties interrelate with their opponents across the political spectrum? What does the future hold for these political formations, both within each country and as determinant forces in the EU? What these successes tell us about the transformation of party systems in Western Europe? 
To submit a paper, please send an abstract of maximum 300 words to Arianna GiovanniniLaura Polverari and Antonella Seddone, by Friday 9 October 2015.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

PSA 2016 - Call for Papers for JOINT PANELS: "Visions of the EU in times of Crisis"

In view of next year's PSA annual conference (Brighton, 21-23 March 2016), the Italian Politics Specialist Group is advertising a call for papers for a joint panel organised in collaboration with the Irish, German, French, Greek, Scandinavian, and Comparative European Politics Specialist Groups.

The EU-ro crises and the end of the Good Life?
Competing national understandings and visions of the EU in times of crisis

There has been much talk and academic analysis about the multiple crises which have troubled the EU in recent years. Media reports and academic research have strongly focused on the enduring economic crisis which includes the Euro crisis that resulted from the global financial crash in 2007/8. However, the EU has also been confronted with political and cultural crises which are threatening to endanger the entire post-Second World War ‘European project’. Importantly, the EU is under threat no longer only from Eurosceptic right-wing parties and movements but increasingly also from Eurosceptic left-wing parties and movements. One central reason for the multiple crises is that different competing (national and sub-national) understandings of the EU and its future exist. These differences have not only been affected by Europe’s different national cultures and identities but also by how, within members states, different constituencies of voters have perceived their interests to have been affected by free trade, globalization and deepening integration.

The proposed joint panels aim to draw on the expertise of the members of various Specialist Groups by seeking contributions which critically assess different national and sub-national understandings of the EU (and the Eurozone specifically) and its future. To this end, we seek contributions focusing on how the multiple EU crises are perceived and what remedies are proposed in one or several member states by different constituencies (e.g. employees/employers; ‘ordinary voters’/members of the political class; ‘natives’/migrants) over different time periods.
We welcome both comparative and single-country analyses. We encourage proposals for both broader scoping papers on European integration and what it has meant to the EU as a whole and/or particular member states, as well as more specialised papers covering specific aspects of competing attitudes towards the EU and member states among different national and sub-national constituencies of voters. We also invite papers that focus on the impact of national identities on attempts to foster the creation of a European identity.

We would like to suggest that the joint panels could be used as an opportunity to produce a special issue for an academic journal or an edited book, selecting those contributions which closely share a common theme.

If you are interested in submitting a paper proposal, please send an abstract of max 300 words to your Specialist Group Convenor (for IPSG: Dr Daniele Albertazzi and Dr Arianna Giovannini) by Friday 2 October 2015.

Monday, 27 April 2015

IPSG at the PSA annual Conference, Sheffield (30 March - 1 April 2015)

The Italian Politics Specialist Group had a very productive time at the annual conference of the Political Studies Association, which was held in Sheffield this year!

The IPSG held its annual general meeting in Sheffield, and re-elected its executive committee. We are delighted to announce our new EC line-up, which includes 'old' and new members: 

Prof. James L. Newell (University of Salford) - Chair & Secretary
Dr Daniele Albertazzi (University of Birmingham) - Co-Convenor
Dr Arianna Giovannini (University of Huddersfield) - Co-Convenor & Communication Officer
Dr Mark Donovan (University of Cardiff) - Membership Officer
Dr Giulia Sandri (Université Catholique de Lille) - International Relations Officer
Stefano Camatarri (University of Milan) - Post-Graduate Officer 

Dr Laura Polverari (University of Strathclyde) and Dr Antonella Seddone (University of Turin) will continue to stand as Secretary and SISP & Italy Liaison Officer respectively.
The group also set its agenda for next the next year, which will involve very interesting international activities - details of which will be posted on this page very shortly.

At this year's conference, the IPSG had the pleasure to host (jointly with CEPG) a  
lecture by Prof. Cas Mudde
Prof. Cas Mudde's Lecture

Furthermore, the group organised three panels:
Dr Daniele Albertazzi, Dr Eva Garau and Dr Lisa Lanzone
 We would like to thank Dr Umut Korkut (Glasgow Caledonian University), Dr Mari K. Niemi (University of Strathclyde), Dr Lena Karamanidou (City University), Ms Sanja Badanjak (University of Wisconsin - Madison), Dr Daniele Albertazzi (University of Birmingham), Dr Eva Garau (University of Cagliari), Dr Maria Elisabetta Lanzone (University of Pavia), Ms Esther Masana (University of Granada), Professor Paul Taggart and Dr Emily Robinson (University of Sussex), Stefano Camatarri (University of Milano), Dr Antonella Seddone (University of Cagliari), Dr Giulia Sandri (Université Catholique de Lille) and Dr Fabio Bordignon (Università di Urbino Carlo Bo (Italy) for participating to our panels presenting very intersting and thought-provoking papers.

          Fabio Bordignon, Stefano Camatarri, Fortunato Musella, Dario Quattromani, Paul Furlong, Daniele Albertazzi, Jim Newell and Luigi Ceccarini enjoying the PSA's conference dinner

Fabio Bordignon, Jim Newell, Luigi Ceccarini and Daniele Albertazzi at the IPSG dinner

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The election of Italy’s new president has strengthened Matteo Renzi’s grip over Italian politics*

On 31 January, Sergio Mattarella, a former Constitutional Court judge, was elected as the new President of Italy. James L. Newell and Arianna Giovannini write that while the formal powers assigned to the President remain fairly limited, the appointment of Mattarella represented an important victory for Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. They argue that the nature of the negotiations leading up to the new President’s election highlight the authority Renzi now holds over his own party, but may have implications for Renzi’s working relationship with former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

On 14 January, the 89 year-old Italian President Giorgio Napolitano resigned his position, making way for the election of a new President – the ex-Christian Democrat, and former Constitutional Court judge, Sergio Mattarella. The resignation, and the new President’s election (on 31 January), came at a very delicate moment in Italian politics, coinciding as they do with concerted attempts by the centre-left Prime Minister, the 40-year old ex-mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, to push through much-needed electoral-law and constitutional reforms.

Background: Napolitano and the 2013 parliamentary election
Napolitano had come by his position in April 2013, following a watershed election the previous February – an election that had brought the country to the brink of ungovernability. Then, widespread disenchantment with the conduct of established politicians and the performance of the political class had led to the explosive growth of a popular protest movement, the Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five-star Movement, M5S) led by the comedian, Beppe Grillo. Winning 25 per cent of the vote, it had made significant inroads into the support of both centre left and centre right, leading to the impression of a country divided into three more-or-less equal segments, none of which could agree with either of the others; and importantly, thanks to the electoral system, it led to the lack of any overall majority in the upper house, the Senate.
This was significant because the Senate, which is elected at the same time as the lower house (the Chamber of Deputies), has exactly the same legislative powers as the former, and therefore has the power to install and unseat governments through votes of (no) confidence. Napolitano had been elected as President in 2006 and his mandate was due to expire shortly after the 2013 election. Then, Parliament – and the regional representatives which, together with the legislature, comprise the electoral college responsible for choosing presidents – found it impossible to agree on a successor.
Divided internally, the parliamentary parties had in desperation asked the only candidate with a chance of winning a compact vote on right and left – Napolitano – to stand for an unprecedented second term. Napolitano had made a condition of agreeing to the request for the formation of an equally unprecedented grand coalition government, whose principal components would be the centre-left Partito Democratico (Democratic Party, PD) and its ‘arch enemy’ on the centre right led by Silvio Berlusconi.

Renzi’s reform efforts
In January of last year, Renzi had reached agreement with Berlusconi for electoral law reform and a reform of the Senate – reforms which on paper looked like having a good chance of being passed because, together, Renzi’s party and that of Berlusconi commanded a clear majority and the two seemed to have a strong incentive to achieve success given the threat posed by the M5S.
By sponsoring an electoral-law reform that provided for a majority seat bonus for the ‘party or coalition’ obtaining 37 per cent of the vote (and after later discussion, the ‘party list’ achieving 40 per cent), together with a run-off between the two best placed if none reached that percentage, Renzi and Berlusconi calculated that they would make life difficult for Beppe Grillo’s Movement – which, by its nature, would find it harder to coalesce with other forces and so obtain the magic percentage or emerge as one of the top two. 
But because it applied to the Chamber of Deputies only, the proposal was necessarily linked to a change in the constitutional position of the Senate that would limit its size, its legislative powers and its powers to install and unseat governments. Together, the reforms were widely viewed as being essential to improvements in the performance of Italy’s institutions and thus to stemming the tide of popular dissatisfaction expressed by the M5S. 

Renzi and Berlusconi in the 2015 presidential election
It is for this reason, then, that the presidential election came at a critical juncture. First, passage of the twin reforms is by no means assured. For one thing, both centre left and centre right are internally divided on them; for another the reform paradox must be reckoned with – can one expect senators, ultimately, to support a reform that will result in them voting themselves out of office? Moreover, the Senate reform must be passed using the cumbersome procedure for constitutional amendment. This requires two separate votes in each of the houses taking place within three months of each other, and it can be made the subject of a popular referendum if it is passed with less than a two-thirds majority on the second vote in either of the houses.
Second – and here we come to the crux of the matter – the positions parties take in presidential elections inevitably impinge on the positions they take in negotiating with other parties on ‘ordinary’, substantive matters. This is especially true in the early twenty-first century where the President’s actual, as opposed to formal, powers have become much more significant than they were in the past, thanks to the ‘mediatisation’ of politics and the relative weakness of the Italian parties.
In this case, Renzi was aware that the solidity of his ‘reform pact’ (the so-called Patto del Nazareno) depended on finding a presidential candidate amenable to Berlusconi. He also had to keep in mind that while only a simple majority is required to elect the President in the fourth round of voting, two-thirds majorities were required in the first three rounds of voting, and Renzi did not have the required numbers to reach that level of support.
The fact that Renzi’s party was internally divided over the reform proposals and the collaboration with Berlusconi that they entailed, ensured that support from his own party was also far from assured. His tactic in the immediate aftermath of Napolitano’s resignation was to refuse to be drawn on his choice of candidate and then to urge his followers (as Berlusconi did in the case of his followers) to cast a blank ballot in the initial three rounds of voting – while at the same time consulting Berlusconi in confidence. Neither man could afford to be seen as being the hostage of the other so they kept their cards close to their chests.
Thus it was that on 28 January, the day before the voting was due to begin, Berlusconi announced to his followers: “we have not yet found a candidate. We will be in permanent consultations to find a presidential nominee able to guarantee our interests”. Meanwhile, Renzi announced, obliquely, to his followers: “The profile of the ideal candidate outlined during the course of the consultations was of one who would defend the Constitution, a politician acceptable to almost everyone – [but] we will not accept vetoes”.
In effect, the decision to advocate blank ballots in the first three rounds was a joint one on the part of Berlusconi and Renzi, who were aware of the difficulties in finding a mutually agreeable candidate able to succeed at that point, and aimed to postpone the real negotiations, which began in earnest on 29 January when Renzi publicly endorsed the candidature of Mattarella.
He had pulled a rabbit out of his hat: as a member of the PD who had once resigned as a minister in protest at legislation that would assist Berlusconi to build his media empire, Mattarella was opposed by Berlusconi. But the entrepreneur was aware that, as a widely respected politician who had been prominent in the fight against the Mafia, Mattarella would not only attract relatively cohesive support on the centre left but would attract the support of many on the centre right too.
He was thus left with a choice: either support Mattarella and appear to have caved in to Renzi, or urge his supporters to continue to cast blank ballots in the fourth round of voting, knowing that in the secrecy of the polling booth some might disobey him – with a corresponding dent to his authority. In the end, he chose the latter option and the blow to his authority was duly delivered: Mattarella was elected with 665 votes, almost a two thirds majority, in the process revealing a major split in Berlusconi’s party, since the number of blank ballots was about 40 less than the number of his followers.

Renzi’s victory
The outcome of the presidential election represents an important victory for Renzi because it reinforces his leadership of the PD, highlighting that he has substantially more authority over his party than many thought he would be capable of when he became leader at the end of 2013. It is also important for Renzi in terms of his relationship with Berlusconi.
The former Prime Minister, as is well known, has for years been widely criticised over conflicts of interest underlying his position as a prominent politician and as a significant entrepreneur. So Renzi was always vulnerable to criticisms within and outside his party (especially from the M5S) that the Patto del Nazareno was a kind of unholy alliance based on an exchange of favours, not all of which were likely to be legitimate. What the presidential election outcome does, then, is suggest that the Prime Minister is far less beholden to Berlusconi and his interests than Renzi’s critics have so far argued. And this too strengthens him.
While Renzi’s victory could put the deal on institutional reforms with Berlusconi in jeopardy, his confidence seems to suggest that he has played his cards right, if not with Berlusconi himself, perhaps with other members of the centre right. On the one hand, some among Berlusconi’s followers, feeling that they have been outmanoeuvred by Renzi, have spoken of the death of the Patto del Nazareno. Others have urged caution, aware of the dangers of appearing to subvert an agreement widely portrayed in the media as one that represents the best opportunity in at least a decade for a much needed overhaul of the political system.
On balance the judgement of Federico Santi seems correct, namely, that the manner of Mattarella’s election “will undoubtedly increase friction within and without the ruling coalition. It may complicate reform progress at the margin. However, it will not derail reforms or threaten political stability”.

**Note: this article has been originally published by the LSE EUROPP Blog.

Monday, 9 February 2015

IPSG annual conference 2015, University of Strathclyde, 14-15 January 2015

The IPSG annual conference 2015 was held at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, on 14-15 January 2015. With forty participants over the two days, the conference attracted scholars representing amongst the best UK and Italian universities (and also universities in Finland and Estonia). Sixteen papers, distributed in four panels, discussed: (i) the impact of the European election results on the Italian political landscape; (ii) euro-skepticism, nationalism and populism; (iii) the difficult path of European integration; and (iv) the institutional and constitutional reforms currently being introduced.  
The conference thus represented both a momentous opportunity to reflect on the outcomes and wider impact of last year’s European Parliament elections and wider developments occurred in the Italian political scene since. 
Dr Laura Polverari, introducing Prof. Keating's keynote.

Undisputed highlights of the conference were the superb keynote address by Professor Michael Keating on the 're-scaling of the European State' (University of Aberdeen) and the closing round table expertly moderated by Professor Philip Cooke (University of Strathclyde), which included contributions by Professor Martin J. Bull (University of Salford), Professor Roberto di Quirico (University of Cagliari), Dr Myrto Tsakatika (Glasgow University) and Dr Mark Shephard (University of Strathclyde). 

A common thread throughout the conference, from the keynote lecture to the closing round table, was the comparative approach that informed papers and debates. It was informed by an acknowledgement that in today's Europe, Italy is not the special case than it sometimes is portrayed to be. The IPSG is currently planning next year’s annual conference and expressions of interests would be welcome

Delegates enjoying the conference 'cocktail masterclass' and dinner