After one year of technical government and almost two decades of Berlusconi government, Italy finds itself at a crossroads. Under the eyes of Europe and the world Italian voters will have to make a choice on Sunday February 24 and Monday February 25.
The election will determine the composition of the 17th Parliament of the Italian Republic, the 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies and the 315 members of the Senate, as well as the next Prime Minister.
At the crossroads, the country needs to decide among six alternative political coalitions: six political alliances, six candidates vying to be prime minister and 184 party symbols. Not an easy choice for Italy, especially for its young people, as the country struggles with the economic crisis that is crushing growth, freezing the labour market and drying up household savings.
In a nutshell, Italians will have to choose between the ‘old way’ with the bipolarised Berlusconi/Bersani asset and the ‘new way’ of doing politics, selecting from four new parties.
Silvio Berlusconi, a candidate for the sixth time for the centre-right coalition, challenges Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the democratic centre-left political and electoral alliance.
Several new parties have emerged seeking to break the traditional pattern in politics: the Scelta Civica party of former premier Mario Monti; the Rivoluzione Civile coalition of the leaders Luigi de Magistris and Antonio Ingroia; the free-market oriented Fare per Fermare il Declino of Oscar Giannino; and Movimento a 5 stelle (Movement of five stars) of the Italian comedian, blogger and activist Beppe Grillo.
It’s hard to predict which road Italy will take.
What is crystal clear is that in one of the most difficult stages of its republican history, the country requires politicians ready and strong enough to deal with the situation, despite the growing mistrust of ordinary citizens.
This mistrust has been fuelled by political scandals and by a parade of party skirmishes, contradictions, proclamations and slogans that are the clearest representation of the disarmingly unrepresentative level reached in this political system.
It is indicative of both the political system’s flaws as well as the intense desire for change that several candidates are now actors, entrepreneurs and entertainers, not politicians.
Economic crisis. Social crisis.
But something is changing. There are hopeful signs that the crisis may hold the seeds of an opportunity for Italy to invest in growth. It is now time to demonstrate that Italy is not only about the usual stereotypes, not only about its history (and what has made it successful in the past) but a country that even if old and full of contrasts, believes its differences are pieces of the same puzzle.
It is time for Italians to develop a common Geist, to commit. Whatever the result after the weekend, this election gives Italians the opportunity to show their commitment to improving and building a better future. Then, maybe something will actually change.