February 24 is the date on which Italy will decide for the future of country amid strict austerity, recession, and wide unemployment. Although the country is well-known for the frequent changes of governments during the post-war period, it appears that these elections will not only be of paramount importance for its future but also for the European politico-economic agenda. Italians are expected to take very hard decisions through their votes, and given the fact that they do not trust politics and politicians, many concerns are voiced about the clarity of their political intentions: keeping austerity as a process of reducing debt, or subsidizing development as an alternative to fiscal reform?
These elections are characterized by a strong political debate. The former prime minster, Silvio Berlusconi is trying to keep its center-right political party united by presenting a plan for economic development as the antidote to strict austerity. Although many economists consider him to have the greatest of responsibilities for the current situation of the country, Berlusconi sets as a focal point in his agenda an ambitious political model which is diametrically opposed to the one supported by the German government and its allies in the Euro zone. However, opinion polls and adverse criticism from European political circles put a spoke in his wheel to become prime minister, leading him to ally with the nationalist party of the “Northern League” but without being able to be in charge if the political coalition receives the majority of the parliamentary seats.
The current prime minister, Mario Monti, is supported by a political coalition of center parties, which are demonstrating the need of continuing the technocratic approach of governance, with economic sacrifices to be the key so to lead Italy back to growth. However this plan’s feasibility is placed under question since there are citizens who still cling to more generous policies even in times of fiscal destabilization in which austerity intensifies unemployment rates and decreases the consumption of goods.
Finally, Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the center-left party does not reject the policy that Mario Monti has implemented during his presidency, but he states that he will follow a less fiscally oriented plan, which will proceed in changing problematic areas of the Italian public sector. However, the plan will not put aside its social orientation to supporting the weaker groups of the society. Bersani, however, does not appear to unify all the dissatisfied citizens of the austerity policies and for European analysts he is considered that he will create along with the French President Hollande, a socialistic block which will drastically reform the political identity of the European Union.
However, there is a wide fear that insecurity, frustration, and anger towards the strict austerity (which has changed the well-being of the Italian citizens), will not promote rationality and that the decisions of the electorate will be the outcome of the current socio-political situation. Yet, you cannot ask an unemployed person to be rational when they cannot afford their rent and other rudimentary expenses.
The European community is expecting the results of the Italian elections not only as a political process of electing the new Italian government but also as the starting point of radical changes for the European economic agenda, since a country of 60 million of inhabitants, with a highly industrialized economy and mostly with an historical European identity due to the fact that it is a founding member of the union, are elements which can outline that the next president of Italy is not going to define only the future of the Italians, but also of the rest of the Europeans. Inevitably, February will give the answers to all of our questions.