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Liberalism in Italy is still alive. Not that it had ever died, for heaven’s sake, but certainly the long absence from Parliament of a true party that expresses liberal democratic and pro-European values has, over the years, contributed a lot to lowering the awareness among Italian people of the importance of the EU for national growth, giving space to populists and neo-fascist drifts.
In a press conference, former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, and one of the leaders of +Europa, announced the new pro European, federalist and liberal democratic Italian movement will not have to collect any more signatures and will be officially allowed to compete in the next election race. The news has enormous importance for European and Italian Liberalism because Italian voters now have the chance to choose a really liberal democratic proposal, the only real opposition to the racist and populist drift that is slipping country into chaos.
This was made possible thanks to Bruno Tabacci, a politician whose roots are very far from Emma Bonino’s. Tabacci is founder and leader of Centro Democratico, a small Catholic-inspired party born of one of the many splits of the ancient Democrazia Cristiana. During the same press conference Tabacci announced that Centro Democratico will join +Europa. Tabacci’s party is already represented in the Parliament after the 2013 elections (it gained a seat as part of “Italia Bene commune” coalition), and this fact give +Europa right to compete in the next electoral round. According to Italian law, all the parties present in a political election are automatically allowed to compete in the next one, whether they present themselves alone or together with a group of parties under a common symbol and name.
Centro Democratico and Tabacci therefore become the fourth member of + Europa, alongside Radicali Italiani, Forza Europa and the Fare per Fermare il declino movement.
Bruno Tabacci’s decision has great importance because recognizes two important aspects: firstly that Italy absolutely needs a really liberal democratic and europeist party (Partito Liberale Italiano choose to join center right side, together with populists and nationalists) and secondly that in giving each party same chances to compete. Tabacci said: “I want mine gesture to be considered a contribution to democracy. I decided to make the symbol of my party available for +Europa to recover a dimension of freedom that I consider fundamental. If there had not been Emma Bonino’s list we would all have been poorer”. This decision was really a great message of democracy: even if Radicali and CD share some challenges and topics, they are very far apart in some other areas. It must be said that in 2014 EU Elections Centro Democratico appeared alongside to liberal democratic movements in Italy: white and orange CD symbol was within the one of “Scelta Europea con Guy Verhofstadt” and Tabacci was also one of the unlucky candidates on the same list. Tabacci himself took part in the last pro European meeting that was held in Rome and of which Liberal Words wrote: “It’s time to take a step towards democracy. This is why I was there, at a pro-European gathering in Rome – he said – Our different points of view in some topics are not a problem”.
Tabacci is the only politician who took concrete action to save the chance to give Italian voters the chance to choose a pro European proposal. Other politicians, both in center-left and in the center-right side, only expressed appreciation words for Emma Bonino, but none of them gave any real help to reduce or avoid signatures. It was only thanks to an amendment within the budget law, after a letter written by Emma Bonino, Forza Europa leader Benedetto Della Vedova and Radicali Italiani secretary Riccardo Magi to premier Paolo Gentiloni, that +Europa obtained permission to reduce the required number of signatures to be collected from 50.000 to 25.000. So now, no more signatures are needed. But both Radicali Italiani and Forza will remain committed together to fight the new electoral law, a fight for democracy: other lists infact do still have the trouble of collecting signatures.
European liberalism can therefore hope to have its representatives in the Italian government, which is certainly a big step forward compared to the past. But it’s only now that the real battle begins. Many people in Italy believe that + Europe may be the real surprise of the upcoming elections and that it can also attract the votes of some disgruntled people who in the past had supported the Democratic Party, especially if +Europa presents itself alone, without allies.
Emma Bonino is a widely respected politician and her battles have reached cross-party to create consensus on the various political affiliations. This is driving + Europa, that now seems much closer than before to that 3% of voters who will have to reach in order to elect their representatives in Parliament if they choose to go alone (while within a coalition it is sufficient to reach 1%) and that is why now the Democratic Party, until now very closed to discuss about an alliance, reopened the dialogue for the search for a political agreement. The race to bring Europe back to the center of Italian political debate has begun!