I live in a bit of a bubble here since I can’t read the newspapers easily nor can I follow the news commentaries on radio or TV. Its like being on a permanent vacation. However, even I have been drawn into an interest in politics with the appointment of Matteo Renzi as the new Prime Minister. He’s the third PM in a short space of time to be appointed by the President rather than elected. At 39, he’s the youngest PM in the history of Italy and has chosen a young cabinet with an average age of 48, half of whom are women. This in itself is notable since positions of power in the the Italian workforce are still very much male dominated. Sadly, it seems to me that already, the women are not being taken seriously. At their swearing-in ceremony, the media did not debate their capability (some are inexperienced and have heavyweight portfolios) but their fashion sense. Clothing, shoes, make-up and even tights were commented upon. I didn’t come across any comments on the men’s suits, ties or socks!
I must confess that I find Italian politics quite baffling. There are more than a dozen parties with ideologies ranging from extreme right to extreme left and its quite hard to keep track of them. The government is formed by a coalition of nine parties so getting agreement on anything is quite a feat. Then, any proposed change has to be approved by the Senate (upper chamber) as well as by the Chamber of Deputies (lower chamber). Membership of the two chambers is very different so approval by one does not automatically favour approval by the other. Incidentally, for some strange reason, those aged 25 and above can be voted for as representatives in the lower chamber but only those aged 40 and above can be voted onto the Senate. Furthermore, those 18 and over can vote for those in the lower chamber but you have to be 25 or over to vote for members of the Senate. What I find most confusing is that leaders of the parties are not necessarily in Parliament. So for example, Renzi has never served in Parliament nor will he now that he’s the PM. Silvio Berlusconi lost his Parlimentary seat but remains as head of his party which recently split to create yet another party. Renzi has promised to cut taxes and reduce unemployment which is around 17% among the under 40s and over twice that among the under 25s. How he proposes to do this is not yet clear but everyone is waiting to see how it all shakes out. I hope that his reforms bode well both for Italy’s youth as well as its women.
Just as an aside, the President, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are all housed in different buildings. The Senate is in Palazzo Madama near Piazza Navona, and the Chamber of Deputies is in Palazzo Montecitorio just off Via del Corso. The President is in the Palazzo del Quirinale which sits on Quirinale Hill, one of the seven hills of Rome. It was once the seat of the reigning Pope and subsequently the Italian Kings. There is a church in the courtyard which one can’t normally enter except on Sunday morning when there is a free concert. Another item on my ‘to do list’!