A glossary of the Italian centre left

I am trying to follow the political debate within the centre left in view of coalition primaries and local elections in numerous cities including Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Bologna next year.

However, not only is the discussion more fragmented and fractious than I had realised but it also requires a glossary to understand.

Arancione, minoranza dem, cosa rossa, area dem are just some of the neat but impenetrable phrases used by politicians and reporters to refer to factions or formations that, without the necessary background and context, risk meaning absolutely nothing.

So here in note form is my own ‘glossary of the Italian centre left’, based on the terms and phrases that have most baffled me.

Partito Democratico (PD) – founded in 2007 as a moderate reformist party from the merger of the Democrats of the Left (DS), Margherita and other minor centre-left parties. It is a distant heir of the Italian Communist Party, which was succeeded by the Democratic Party of the Left (PdS) in 1991 and then by the DS in 1998. The PD has been led by Matteo Renzi as secretary since December 2013. Renzi subsequently ousted party colleague Enrico Letta to become prime minister at the head of a left-right unity government in February 2014. Biggest political party in Italy in terms of both the number of votes and the number of seats won at the last general elections in February 2013 (although some MPs have since defected). President: Matteo Orfini. Deputy secretaries: Debora Serracchiani, Friuli Venezia Giulia regional governor, and Lorenzo Guerini, MP. In total the national secretariat is made up of 18 members of whom exactly half are women Headquarters: Largo del Nazareno, Rome

Partito della nazione – denotes a party that appeals to the broadest possible electorate, over and above traditional ideological positions; the term is often used in a derogatory sense to describe the PD under Renzi’s leadership as it has moved progressively away from conventional left-wing and centre-left policies towards the centre and right, in a process that has seen the secretary court unlikely elements such as former Forza Italia national coordinator Denis Verdini and his Alleanza Liberalpopolare-Autonomie (AL-A). It should also be remembered that the two cornerstones of Renzi’s government agenda – electoral and constitutional reform – are the result of a dubious pact with Forza Italia leader and ex prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in January 2014, before the party secretary took office as prime minister.

Minoranza dem – left-wing minority within the PD led by Roberto Speranza that is deeply critical of the direction taken by Renzi but is reluctant to break ties.

Area democratica (area dem) – another faction within the PD established by culture minister and former PD secretary Dario Franceschini to contribute to debate within the party.

Giovani Turchi – movement of 30-40 somethings founded in 2010 and led by Matteo Orfini, which supported Gianni Cuperlo (the candidate backed by several key exponents of the ‘old guard’ including Massimo D’Alema and Pier Luigi Bersani) in the 2013 party leadership campaign before subsequently deciding to cooperate with the winner Renzi. Other key exponents include justice minister Andrea Orlando and, initially, Stefano Fassina, who left the PD to join Sinistra Italiana (see below) in June 2015.

Sinistra Italiana – parliamentary group constituted in November 2015 by defectors from the PD, representatives of Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) led by former Puglia governor Nichi Vendola and defectors from the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) founded by comedian Beppe Grillo. Its defining colour is orange (hence exponents are referred to as ‘arancioni’ and the alliance as the modello arancione), but paradoxically the movement is also referred to as the ‘cosa rossa’ (red thing).

Leopolda – annual political convention launched by Renzi, then Florence mayor, at the former Leopolda railway station in Florence in 2010; it was here that Renzi and then Lombardy regional councillor Giuseppe (Pippo) Civati called for the ‘old guard’ to be scrapped (rottamato) in favour of a new generation of leaders (generazione Leopolda), which is now in power. Renzi and Civati and their followers subsequently became known as rottamatori. The sixth edition of the Leopolda closed on Sunday. Civati left the PD in disagreement with Renzi to join the Mixed Group in the chamber of deputies in May 2015 and has since founded his own party, Possibile.

L’Ulivo – this term refers to successive centre-left coalitions conceived and led by Romano Prodi until the creation of the PD in 2007. Many critics of Renzi’s PD hark back to the Olive Tree alliance with nostalgia and it is now being increasingly evoked in view of local elections next year. Nostalgics (and Prodi supporters) are sometimes referred to as ulivisti.


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