The Age of Inciucio


Welcome back to the ’90s. From left: Silvio Berlusconi, Romano Prodi and Massimo D’Alema


What Italians loath more than their PMs is the inciucio – the political scam, Italian-style.

It started with Massimo D’Alema, Italy’s Frank Underwood, in 1994 when, as leader of the centre-left party, he promised to Silvio Berlusconi that he had no intentions to touch what he had dearest to his heart: his media empire.

The inciucio, the exquisite Italian tradition of never losing a political battle, allowed unfit candidates and unstable governments to hold power with variable parliamentarian geometries throughout the ‘90s and the early 2000s.

Those who view the Constitutional referendum as a vote against Europe and a revolt against globalisation are misleading you.

The Italian referendum is a mere domestic issue. It’s the struggle for power of those political figures that PM Matteo Renzi, The Scrapper, wanted to get rid of to shape his own version of Italy for the next decade. With the ultimate inciucio, a far-from-perfect deal struck by centre-left and centre-right, Mr Renzi wanted to pave the way for a third Republic, take advantage of the centre-right in a comatose state and give a clear majority and an unambiguous mandate to whoever was to run for the premiership. Specifically: himself.

The reform was flawed, of course, and it was indeed the result of a dubious compromise between unelected leaders.

Matteo Renzi, however, underestimated his political opponents, both from within and without his party. Namely, Silvio Berlusconi and Massimo D’Alema who adopted Tomasi di Lampedusa’s most memorable quote as their political motto: “Everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same.

The missed opportunity of a Constitutional reform is a perpetuation of this old habit, a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation of a political class that is too scared to go to general election and will prosper in economic stagnation, producing the much-adored ‘scalene triangle’ government: everybody wins but nobody is in charge.