Monday, December 5, 2016

Voters and the EU

Fabulous sentence:
It is a strange development that the greatest alliance of democratic states in modern history, the European Union, has come to fear democratic votes and elections.
The EU has always been an elite project with only tepid support from voters, who have rejected many referendums on EU membership and never given it more than 53% support.

The latest electoral blow to the EU comes from Italy, where a vote on constitutional changes that strike most observers as sensible came to be seen as a referendum on the policies of the EU and the Renzi government. The changes were voted down and Renzi resigned. This leaves Italy with no government and no clear path forward at a time when youth unemployment is 40%.

I have no idea what will happen. I would like to see the EU unwound a little and the common currency abolished, but I don't think anybody knows how this might be done; even in Britain, which never joined the EU core and kept its own currency, they are having a terrible time figuring out how to extract themselves from all their ties and obligations.

As to why this is happening, no need to think very hard about that: because in Italy just as everywhere else, millions of people feel that the current global order is not working for them, and nobody in power cares.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Sensible constitutional changes? I admit, I've only read a few news pieces regarding the topic from sites such as the BBC and Al-Jazeera, but the sense I came away with was that they wanted to effectively remove the senate's power and leave it with a vague, yet-to-be-properly-defined role in government. That doesn't strike me as terribly democratic - but then again, I don't actually know how the Italian senate operates, so...

Said news sources also led me to believe that Renzi is wildly disliked and he made the mistake of staking his resignation on the success of the measure, so that many people voted against it just to force him to resign. And while you bring up the topic of youth unemployment, I read that a huge number voting aganst Renzi and his measure were themselves young people.

Italy has a longstanding corruption problem, and they're famous for the slow operation of the government, but my intuition would lead me to think the problem might be more political and cultural than it is constitutional. I think young people in particular in Italy are almost automatically suspicious of their leaders, particularly their prime ministers, particularly after so many years of Berlusconi. I think while they may not trust the senate to get things done fairly in a reasonable amount of time, they'd rather have it in place to obstruct such figures, rather than gut it and centralize even more power in the hands of a smaller number of individuals.

Of course, as I said, I don't actually have much knowledge of the specific details and workings of the Italian state - I'm drawing much from generalized knowledge of republics with parliaments, which overwhelmingly seem to differ very little in the end, so I'm making a few assumptions. Maybe I ought not, and maybe I'm completely off the mark. Probably later today or tomorrow I'll read up on Italy's system more deeply and find out.