Some of contemporary Italy’s challenges appear similar to those of the early 1990s. The party system is once again in fragments. The ruling centre-left Democratic party (PD) split last month. The right is divided. The most popular opposition party is the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Since November 2011 four prime ministers have taken office not because voters chose them, but because of a financial emergency, factional squabble, party coup and failed constitutional reform.
Matteo Renzi, the former premier and PD leader, suffered a blow this month when it emerged that Tiziano Renzi, his father, and Luca Lotti, a close political ally, had been caught up in a judicial probe into suspected graft in public procurement.
The most disturbing comparison between 1992 and the present day concerns the Italian economy, which is projected this year to be the slowest-growing in the eurozone. Public debt is more than 132 percent of gross domestic product. Unemployment is almost 12 per cent; the youth jobless rate is over 37 percent.
As a consequence, ever more Italian politicians question the merits of eurozone membership. So do Italian voters. In a Eurobarometer poll published in December, 47 percent called the euro “a bad thing” for their country and only 41 percent “a good thing”. This is the big difference with 25 years ago.
As long as the moderate left or right governs Italy, it may be possible to contain this disenchantment with the EU and the euro. But the PD’s fissures are the latest sign that the party system is cracking under the strain. The Five Star Movement is waiting in the wings.