The rush to the Quirinale and the party fever –

The rush to the Quirinale and the party fever –
The rush to the Quirinale and the party fever –
from Sabino Cassese

There is talk of the next election, not for the figure of the president, but for the context he will have to manage. Now the country fragmented as it had never been before

Never have we wondered so insistently who will be the next President of the Republic. Never before has his election attracted so much attention from political forces and public opinion as in recent months. The policy appears to be suspended pending next January. The reason for this extraordinary interest does not lie – as has been said – in the fact that our state could evolve from a parliamentary republic to a semi-presidential republic. The latter term and the related notion were an ingenious invention of the universally known French jurist and political scientist Maurice Duverger (1917 – 2014). The denomination indicated a republic with a head of state elected by the people, endowed with some powers of its own (in particular, foreign and defense policy) plus a government that must in order to gain the confidence of Parliament. The formula, exhibited in 1970, was judged by one of the leading French scholars to be a delicate example of pastry and not feasible in Italy, where the president was elected by Parliament. it is true instead that a presidential regime made possible by the letter and the spirit of the Constitution – wrote, a few months before his death, on 15 December 1958, a great jurist of the Sienese school, who had been a minister in the first De Gasperi government and held the office from constitutional judge, Mario Bracci, to his friend president Giovanni Gronchi.

Bracci added that it is not necessary to change the Constitution to effectively govern Italy. But Bracci thought of the hypothesis that an electoral majority-parliamentary majority-government-President of the Republic continuum would be established, allowing the president to act as the guide of the government and Parliament. And this reveals the wisdom of Christian Democracy, the party with a relative majority, always in government for the first fifty years of republican history: that party, to avoid such a concentration of power, never ran for the Quirinale for one of its leaders (Gronchi, Leone, Cossiga and Scalfaro were never leaders of the majority currents of that party and Einaudi, Saragat and Pertini belonged to other camps).

If the presidential election does not attract so much interest why are we heading towards a presidentialization of the Italian political system, why, therefore, so much talk and debate about the next election? I believe that the explanation lies not so much in the figure of the next president as in the context that he will have to manage.

I note that the Italian president has above all a role, that of manager of government crises. Its task of giving a government to the country; unable to do so, to dissolve Parliament and to give citizens a voice. Until the Cossiga presidency, the Italian presidents had to manage one crisis per year (Leone and Pertini even more than one), and Leone, Pertini, Cossiga and Scalfaro had to dissolve Parliament more than once. With the so-called Second Republic, government crises have become less frequent.

However, now, the country is as fragmented as it has never been before. There are four political forces representing around 20 percent of the electorate and six others ranging from 2 to 8 percent of the electorate. Furthermore, all ten political forces have internal faults. In addition, the current parliamentary representation is composed differently from what the next elections could produce. Finally, the party leaders do not control their parliamentary groups. Hence, the next president is expected to play a heightened role of crisis manager, because fragmentation is expected to require maximum combinatorial effort from the next Quirinale tenant. This could sleep soundly, not unlike the German president, if political forces were able to associate in stable alliances. But turbulent years are to be expected, and therefore we can expect frequent exercise of the powers that the Constitution attributes to the president.

If we talk so much about the upcoming election, it is not because the accordion of presidential powers is expanding, but because the president is expected to be more frequently called upon to piece together the pieces of political forces adept at dividing and unable to ally, those who fear constitutional wounds need not so much worry about the centralization of too many powers in the president, but about the distractions that this pacifying role of the president can derive from.

A president who is too busy acting as a midwife and then a government nurse, for example, may be forced to pay less attention to the parliamentary seal of government action. This is a phenomenon that is already happening today: just look at how many additions, changes and upheavals Parliament introduces in the government’s bills (and in the decree laws to be converted). If the government fails to act as the steering committee of the parliamentary majority, the only corrective body is the President of the Republic, who promulgates laws, can send them back to Parliament, authorizes the presentation of bills to Parliament. But the president must not be overburdened with the role of government midwife / nurse in order to carry out this task.

Another presidential power overshadowed by presidential government-related functions is that which concerns the presidency of the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSM). The Presidents of the Republic personally chaired the CSM, on average, from a minimum of one to a maximum of four times a year (with the exception of Segni, who was particularly diligent in carrying out this task).

A third task that has already been neglected in the past is that of guardian of the Constitution, and mainly of the principle on which the constitutional charter is woven, that of merit, so effectively summarized recently by a philosopher of language: a) careers must be open to talents , b) everyone must be given equal opportunities, c) places and positions must be assigned to those who deserve them (Marco Santambrogio, The plot against merit, Bari-Rome, Laterza, 2021, p. 192).

Conclusion: the great talk of the upcoming presidential election a) suggests that we are preparing for a strong instability; b) must not cause fear of constitutional upheavals; c) recommends choosing a president skilled in persuasion and combinatorial art; d) causes fear that his energies may be devoted to these tasks, neglecting the others, which are also important.

November 14, 2021 (change November 14, 2021 | 21:23)


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