The new government does not have “consume by” date. This is the opinion of Angelino Alfano, the newly appointed Foreign Minister and leader of the New Centre-Right Party, who said that early elections are not on the agenda of the Government majority and that Matteo Renzi has no intention to shorten the life of the Government led by Paolo Gentiloni. Referring to the electoral law, the Minister is convinced that it must be passed before the Constitutional Court hands down a decision on the “Italicum” electoral law, expected on 24 January, and suggests a modifiedItalicum: “Eliminating the double ballot and introducing a majority-assuring premium for coalitions”. Alfano rebuts the opposition’s claim of a “photocopy government” and is open to the entry of ALA, the Liberal Popular Alliance (Alleanza Liberalpopolare), in the cabinet and in the majority coalition. “For us there’s no problem,” he said. Commenting Vivendi’s takeover of Mediaset, he said that “the government cannot stand as a simple spectator” before the French company’s offensive.
Mr Minister, will the new cabinet survive until the end of the legislature or will early elections be called before the summer?
“This government does not have a “consume by” date. It is not a yogurt, and it is impossible to discuss how long it is likely to last throughout its whole duration.”
But the issue is pervading the major player in the majority coalition, namely the Democratic Party. Do you think that Renzi wants to bring the Country to early elections?
“Renzi is a political leader who takes into consideration the needs of the Country and therefore I really don’t think he intends to shorten the life of this government. Instead, I think he considers what is good for the Country and therefore does not think of calling for early elections.”
The Constitutional Court will decide on the admissibility of the referendum on the Jobs Act on 11 January. Is this a floating mine on the route of the Cabinet?
“Let’s wait for the decision of the Constitutional Court before talking of the admissibility of the referendum query. We stand among those who supported the reform.”
Many think that the query’s admissibility is self-evident, but what is your opinion on this?
“I am not qualified to pre-emptively judge what is provided for in our legal order and therefore I will respectfully stand by and wait for the Court’s decision. Once it is released, everybody will be free to make his or her evaluations. In any case, we think that the reform of the labour market represented a big, albeit not definitive, step forward that it has produced positive effects up to now, which are destined to last. We must continue along this path and put in place the other novelties envisaged in the reform. These innovations were blocked by part of the left-wing parties.”
There is a precedent: in 1987, early elections were held on 14 June and in November of the same year Italians were called to vote for the referendums on nuclear energy and on the civil liability of magistrates. The legal provision enacting it was approved. Is it possible to intervene?
“It all seems so premature that making any suggestion in this direction is a way of raising controversy on the duration of the government and of the legislature. I don’t want to fall in this temptation.”
The Gentiloni government has been defined a «photocopy». The main criticisms concern the lack of discontinuity from the Renzi government, despite the defeat suffered on 4 December. Didn’t you take the voters’ thumbs down seriously?
“In fact, after the referendum, everybody urged us to “form a government to pass the electoral law”. Then, if I can speak frankly, if you don’t call a change of premier discontinuity, I don’t know what is. I want to answer by quoting Prime Minister Gentiloni who yesterday (Editor’s note: Wednesday), in the Senate, said: ‘If I’m here tonight…’. It is the title of a famous song by Luigi Tenco that explains it all: if we were in Parliament asking for a confidence vote on a new Prime Minister, it means that we have unarguably taken into consideration the referendum result of 4 December. An entirely different thing is continuity in the agenda, which I think must be guaranteed, as the vote was on a Constitutional amendment and not on the political experience and policies of these past three years.”
So Renzi was wrong in putting so much at stake in the referendum, linking it to his personal fate?
“Renzi kept his word and resigned. I had discouraged him from doing so throughout the referendum campaign, well ahead of knowing the referendum result and its magnitude. All that we have done is certainly worth much more than a double parliamentary chamber or the CNEL.”
Is there an open case with Boschi? Some accuse you of feathering the nest of populist and anti-European movements with your “photocopy government”.
“Maria Elena Boschi was Minister of Reforms and Relations with the Parliament. She has acquired deep knowledge on how the government machine works. And she did so not from the sun deck of a ship but from the captain’s deck. She will do a wonderful job in the position she has now been assigned. At times, I see furious attacks that make me again think that Renzi should not have resigned because his opponents, by accusing Boschi or Luca Lotti, do not even acknowledge the correctness of his gesture despite the majority of Parliament was asking him to stay on.”
The aggression on Osvaldo Napoli, former Forza Italia MP, by the so-called “Forconi” (“Pitchforks”) raised quite a bit of concern. Is the ruling class adequately responding to the wave of populism?
“The only way to respond to anti-establishment movements is through good politics. The only possible way is to improve things in our Country.”
Will there be a new electoral law? And how soon? Rumours talk about the “Mattarellum” but also about a return to the proportional system.
“I propose to draft the electoral law before the Constitutional Court’s decision and to immediately get to work on a system that, in our opinion, could be the following: eliminating the double ballot and incorporating the majority-assurance premium to coalitions into the Italicum. For the Senate, the applicable electoral law is the Consultellum, but it could also be possible to adapt theltalicum, as amended for the Chamber of Deputies, to the Senate.”
The numbers relative to the Senate majority are not very reassuring. Will some of the senators come to the rescue?
“The Senate voted the confidence to the Renzi government with 169 votes in February 2014. They gave the same number of confidence votes to Gentiloni’s government: 169. You can’t argue with numbers, especially if they express a solid majority.”
Is ALA definitively out or is there a possibility of recovering Verdini’s group? There are still a lot of posts to assign, both in the Government and in the Parliament.
“We have not put a veto on the inclusion of ALA. It is up to the Prime Minister to decide. For us, there’s no problem.”
Berlusconi is defending Mediaset from the takeover by Vivendi. Does the government consider it “an inappropriate hostile takeover”, as the Minister of Economic Development Carlo Calenda called it? What are you planning to do?
“Our political judgment is severe and clear and it is the same expressed by the Minister. All this stands to signify that the government cannot stand as a simple spectator. There are market rules incorporated into legal systems and therefore we will have to see if these initiatives abide by Italian laws or not.”
What initiatives? Are you just exercising a moral suasion on the French or do you have a concrete line of action in mind?
“This falls under the competence of the Ministry and therefore it is Minister Calenda who will have to deal with it.”
What is the future of the centre-right: are you thinking of allying with Forza Italia?
“I repeat that, for us, the alliance between centrists, popular parties and liberals cannot be extended to Le Pen supporters.”
Which means Yes to an alliance with Berlusconi only if the Northern League (Lega Nord) and Fratelli d’Italia do not join.
Yes, for us, the model to follow is the French: it proves that it is possible to create a centrist area that aims to win and govern, relegating populists further to its right.”