Italy’s centre-left looks set for success The opinion polls have shut down in Italy less than two weeks before the election day. Despite the hype about Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo making late surges, the Partito Democratico’s leadlooks comfortable (between 5 and 9 points according to different polls) and Pier Luigi Bersani looks set to give another injection of hope to the political Left in Europe.
The PD have positioned themselves cleverly as a responsible movement running against an array of political mavericks and look likely to be rewarded for their efforts to open-up party structures: a successful primary leadership campaign was held and the party responded well to public demand for renewal in the political class by promoting women and young people in their election lists.
If successful, the crucial question, like for other parties on the centre-left, will be whether they have used their time in opposition to prepare a centre-left model of political economy which can credibly challenge the resolute form of neoliberalism and carry a coalition of voters through distributional and intergenerational economic conflicts -it looks likely that a PD-led government will involve complex coalition-building stretching from the far-left across the centre-left to Monti’s hotchpotch alliance of centrists and right-leaning factions.
The complex transition from opposition campaigning to government is becoming increasingly treacherous for centre-left parties. To be sure, the political promises of campaigning are different from the realities of government but the chasm between the two has grown in recent times.
In Germany, the SPD seems to be taking on this very challenge. Rather than depending on vague platitudes and the personality and rhetoric of the increasingly gaffe-prone Peer Steinbrück, they are now looking to politicise a number of key policy issues and bring the fight to Angela Merkel based on a “governing programme” and a “competence team”. This may well have been forced upon them but it might also offer an opportunity.