I have returned to Rome from Pescara and L’Aquila where I have been working in the aftermath of the earthquake. The experience, while tragic, has made me feel very much at home in my adoptive country. I was talking to some of the local political activists in Pescara the other day and we got to talking politics. Some in Italy are politicizing the earthquake aftermath. Right wing parties calling it a victory for Berlusconi, left wing parties preparing for the inevitable criticism of his government in an effort to win votes in the hotly-contested Abruzzo region in the next election.
So, never being an outsider in a political fight, I decided to join in
Although I am not yet a citizen or able to vote in Italian elections, I have become a member of the Italy of Values party, or as well call it Italia dei Valori
Italy of Values is a center-left populist anti-corruption party that currently sits in the left-wing minority coalition in opposition to current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. IdV, as they are known, gained seats in the last election even though their coalition lost. They are the fastest growing political party in Italy and are strongest in the Molise region (and are particularly strong in Lazio, around Rome, and in the quake-ravaged Abruzzo region)
Italy of Values is probably more in tuned with the more moderate Blue Dogs of the Democratic Party in the United States. They are economically and socially quite liberal, but are not as radical as some of the more leftish political parties, which are mostly different versions of the Italian Communist Party.
IdV is more conservative on immigration issues and on taxes, although they would be vehemently opposed to the Republican tax system in the United States.
Some of the far left criticize the leader of Italy of Values, Antonio Di Pietro, calling him a “right winger.” But many attribute this criticism to IdV’s excellent showing in the 2008 election, while the far left parties lost a lot of strength. Many on the far left fear IdV is gaining a coalition on it’s own, of some far left votes in reliably liberal places like Tuscany and center-right places like Calabria.
IdV has also gained a reputation for being very openly critical of the Berlusconi government and taking him on more often that the other left-wing parties, including the largest left-wing party, the Italian Democratic Party (Partito Democratico). Most of the left have been mute in their criticism of the Premier since he’s victory over the left a year ago. Berlusconi’s popularity goes up and down like a roller coaster. Many of the leftist parties are afraid that what they criticize today, will cost them support tomorrow.
What’s more interesting about the system here is that the parties represent a small number of Italians. The parties work in coalition governments, so the IdV supports are not expected to agree with everything the Communists or Socialists do…so there’s no inter-party purist feud that leads to a DailyKos-style meltdown (seriously, have you seen that place lately?)
So my political life as an Italian has commenced. I’m due at the Vatican for Good Friday mass in a few hours.