Ahead of Italy’s crucial election, the left stands up for the poor and marginalized

Left-wing groups in Italy have launched the People’s Union (UP) to contest the upcoming general elections. Its promises include taxing the rich, improving public services and transforming the transport system for an ecological transformation

September 03, 2022 by Muhammed Shabeer
A People’s Union campaign event in Bologna, Italy. Photo: Potere al Popolo

The upcoming general elections to the Italian parliament are especially vital with political analysts, politicians, and the general public wondering if it will bring an end to the crisis of governance in the country. All 400 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and all 200 elective seats in the Senate of the Republic are up for grabs on September 25. The elections are taking place due to the collapse of the Mario Draghi-led government, much before the completion of the tenure of the current parliament . 

All major political parties and their coalitions are competing in the elections, including the right-wing League led by Matteo Salvini, the social democratic Democratic Party (PD) led by Enrico Letta, and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) led by Giuseppe Conte. Leftist and progressive sections have also launched their electoral platform called the People’s Union (PU) under the leadership of Luigi de Magistris and have begun campaigning across the country.

Since the 2018 general elections in Italy, three coalition governments have ruled the country, all of which failed to complete their tenure due to internal conflicts and defections. After the 2018 general elections, it took 88 days of negotiations before the M5S-League coalition formed the government with Giuseppe Conte as prime minister and Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio as vice-premiers. 

In August 2019, Salvini withdrew support to the government, leading to Conte’s resignation. Following this, the M5S formed a new coalition government under the leadership of Conte with the support of the Democratic Party (PD). This government also fell in early 2021, when former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the leader of the centrist Italia Viva party, withdrew support. 

Draghi, an economist and former president of the European Central Bank, was invited to form the government in 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis and the political crisis triggered by the collapse of the Conte-led coalition. In February 2021, Draghi assumed the prime ministership of the government of national unity, consisting of parties ranging from social democrats to the far-right M5S, League, and Forza Italia, among others. He promised to restore the Italian economy, adhering to EU diktats. 

The Draghi-led government collapsed in July 2022, when M5S opposed parts of the economic stimulus package proposed by its coalition partners in the government. 

Progressive sections in Italy, especially leftists, trade unions, and youth-student groups, have been waging militant struggles against the neo-liberal policies of the Draghi government. People across the country, exhausted by the prolonged COVID-19 crisis, are now also facing an unbearable cost of living crisis. Meanwhile, the government has been busy implementing EU-dictated austerity policies and supporting NATO’s schemes in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

The common people are disenchanted with the failure of back-to-back coalition governments to address their grievances. Most of the mainstream parties in Italy were part of these failed coalition governments. It is at this juncture that Unione Popolare (UP) or the People’s Union was launched on July 9, comprising the Democracy and Autonomy (DemA), Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), Potere al Popolo, ManifestA, Socialist Rebirth, and Party of the South.

In their manifesto titled ‘The Italy We Need’, UP promises to (1) reward and respect work, (2) strive for economic security and to reduce poverty, (3) pursue peace and democracy in Europe and the world, (4) improve health and public administration, (5) restore dignity to education and invest in research, (6) safeguard common goods and local services, (7) transform the energy and transport system to achieve true ecological conversion, (8) protect the environment and support agriculture, (9) rebuild industry by promoting a new development model with culture at the center, (10) impose less tax on those who have little and more on those who have a lot, (11) fight against mafias and ensure fair justice, and (12) improve rights and freedoms.

On September 1, Potere al Popolo stated that UP is the “experience we have brought to life with all the political and social forces that want to finally give a different breath to the future of the country. We are heading into the most undemocratic election in Republican history. We have little time, little money, and a whole deployment of powerful forces against us, but we do not lack determination and courage!”

Potere al Popolo also slammed the spreading of fake news and slander against the UP by political opponents. Establishment parties have ridiculed UP’s proposal to feed the poor by taxing the rich as a ‘Robin Hood Agenda’. The Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), however retorted that “by calling the People’s Union’s agenda as Robin Hood Agenda,  the opponents’ intention is to belittle it, to reduce it to the rank of a fairy tale, in a country where the only fairy tales we are forced to believe are those of the market that regulates everything efficiently, of wealth and it being a moral merit, [and] of the yields of position and power.”

“It’s better to dream about the RobinHood Agenda, than to deceive ourselves that the disastrous Draghi Agenda is the only fairy tale we have to aspire to,” the party added.