Elections: the coalitions are not finding much footing and other Italy news for this week

8 January 2018 - Italy news for this week

Elections: the coalitions are not finding much footing

Matteo Renzi is providing further proof that enticing and uniting is just not his thing. In spite of an electoral law that forces political entities to build coalitions around the leading parties, the DP seems to take no interest in the fates of its possible allies and, after a few shipwrecks, only three could be left afloat: Alfano's centrist force, now in the hands of the enterprising Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin, a slice of the former socialists headed by Riccardo Nencini and the +Europa party led by the charismatic former EU Commissioner Emma Bonino.

All of these offshoots (the first two likely to secure between 1 and 2% while + Europa would seem on course for 3%) seem to have problems which the DP doesn't appear to want to address, as if holding a politically health coalition together was none of its business. The next days will be crucial if we are to achieve a better understanding of Renzi's electoral strategy, which is apparently wavering between surreptitious populism along the lines of the 5 Star Movement and an internal confrontation between its leaders, the outcome of which is unclear. +Europa has not yet decided whether it will run with the DP, after having brought Centro Democratico on board their pro-Europe vessel, a move that has immediately bolstered their chances and improved their negotiating power. 

Things are not going much better on the right side of the spectrum, despite having Silvio  Berlusconi at the helm. He has always built his success on bridging the differences between very diverse forces. Sparks are starting to fly between the Northern League leader Matteo Salvini and Berlusconi's cohorts, with the right wing Fratelli d'Italia acting as a third force and a plethora of offshoots that will not top the 1 – 1.5% of the vote each, according to the most credible forecasts. 

In essence, right now, neither of these groupings seems likely to top the 30% mark. But much has still to be decided…

M5S: Di Maio rehearsing as Prime Minister

The M5S is going ahead with its online parliamentary candidate primaries: new candidates are sprouting up alongside outgoing members of parliament. Many actors, journalists and managers would seem to be in the mix. In the meantime, Luigino Di Maio gave an extensive interview to the Mattino, in which he presented himself as a future Prime Minister, explaining the priorities of his future government: some of the measures are typical of Grillo's neo-statist approach, including  a citizen's income, the taxing of energy producers, the impossibility of dismissing public employees and even the creation of a very questionable public bank. He even goes as far as indicating that shops and shopping centres could be forced to shut down on holidays (deregulation be damned) and harps on about an untenable cancellation of the pension reform (at an estimated cost of 140 billion euro). Other suggestions do deserve further analysis, especially when he points to the need for a very respected school for training in Public Administration or investments in secondary railway networks. But even the 5 Star method doesn't seem to guarantee sufficient quality among its candidates to validly represent citizens within the institutions, as has been clearly been shown by the Rome and Turin municipal councils (with their Rome showing turning out particularly troublesome). The surveys also confirm that the 5 Star Movement is unlikely to exceed the 30% mark.

One youngster out of two is unlikely to vote

According to the Demopolis polling institute, approximately 50% of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 does not intend to vote in the general elections on March 4. They don't feel consulted or involved. The word "youth" only appears 4 times in the "Italia 2020" manifesto published by the DP and in the 5SM work programme, and it never appears in the Northern League's "Charter of Values". Very few mentions of any youth strategies are also provided in the priorities indicated by Forza Italia, on whose site there's just an announcement about pensions ("Minimum pensions up to 1000 euro a month") and against Ius Soli legislation ("A bad law at a bad time"). 

Yet the young will be the first to inherit the country of the future and should therefore be in the front line in the upcoming electoral campaign. An in-depth reform of Italy's educational system must be a priority, both for secondary schools and universities. Reforming syllabuses, aligning them to the needs of the labour market by updating them and making them less factual, more suited to shaping the character of our youth (along the lines of the best Anglo-American schools), and ensuring that the whole educational process is less boring, must be included in the programme of a party standing at the next elections. The extent to which this matter is addressed (I am not sure that cancelling the inscription fee - proposal of the leftist "Liberi e Uguali" - is the right way to adress the issue, even in the perception of the students) should help to reduce the worrying levels of voter disillusion among the young. 

Cyber security under threat

Apple has admitted for the first time that there is a worrying flaw in its hardware, explaining that all Mac and iOs devices (meaning iPhones, iPods, iPads, MacBooks and iMacs) are at risk: after the processor's "bug" was made public, Intel's stock dropped 1.83%, very much against the record breaking performance put up by Wall Street and the positive share prices posted by its "cousins" AMD and Nvidia. 

Apple platforms have historically had a reputation for being unaffected by problems linked to cyber security. One of the reasons being Apple's very closed software environment, compared to the more accessible versions of its competitors and also owing to its market share (malware production has focused on Windows and Android systems owing to their greater market penetration). This time however the problems are linked to a hardware component, so Apple has ended up in the quagmire. 

Billions of computers and smartphones are therefore at the mercy of potential cyber-criminals. 

In the meantime, Google, thanks to its Project Zero researchers who discovered the two bugs, have already announced that they 've introduced a patch on all servers that handle the range of products and services supplied: from Gmail to Chrome to YouTube. So the problem has been overcome without a drop in performance. Even given the latest announcement made by Intel, the most important remedy – from the client's side – is to keep the system constantly updated. Now more than ever, regardless of whether you are Apple or Microsoft, the best advice is to install all the latest system updates released, and making sure one is operating on the latest version. 

At the start of the electoral campaign in Italy, I don't think we should start to worry about external influences on the outcome of the vote, by underlining how on the contrary it could be that many votes – even a decisive number – could be shifted by an appropriate and modern use of the web, following in the footsteps of their exploitation by Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron in their victorious campaigns.

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