The local, national and global political context of the 2020 Venice elections

Man putting a ballot into a voting box – Italy

The local, national and global context of the 2020 Venice elections

The results of this week’s elections in Venice, the Veneto Region and in other regions and cities in Italy were strongly influenced by the local and national political contexts that have evolved over recent decades, and likewise had an impact at a global level. We are very fortunate to have this article, which explains these contexts in a way that provides a clearer understanding of how things have arrived where they have today. Many thanks again to Giovanni Leone – Ed.



The etymological root of both ‘betray’ (tradire) and ‘translation’ (traduzione) can be traced to the same Latin term, tradere. This Latin word means passing from hand to hand, and denotes how this movement is not neutral, and brings changes – so to translate (tradurre) is to betray (tradire). A translation is never literal; it’s not enough to change single words from one language to another. Rather it is necessary to reconfigure the text, preserving the contents but changing forms and expressions to make understanding easier. Every culture has its own language, sensibilities, and shades, so translation requires information and understanding of the original language and of the destination language in order to gather and transpose the sense of the text. In the same way that tradition is betrayal, because it is not true that tradition tends to be conservative; instead it is an innovative practice of verifying the efficacy of a custom that, if it does not pass the test of everyday life, will be abandoned, and another will be sought that is more effective for the time and place. I understood the sense of this affirmation thinking of “wireless phone”, a game we played as children sitting in a circle. Each of us would whisper a word to the one next to him, who would repeat it to the next, and so on. Of course the word changed during its journey, and at the end whoever completed the circle would reveal a word that was completely different from the original.

Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his moccasins.

This aphorism, attributed to the Native Americans, emphasizes the importance of cultivating empathy, but especially of contextualizing circumstances and events precisely. In the moccasins are the place, the person, the customs, the traditions, the communities and cultures, all invaluable factors in creating conditions for understanding and evaluating events, relating them to a precise system of references (this is the same assumption of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which permeated the culture of the 20th century). It is not enough to imagine, and try to identify from a distance. An interpreter is required, one who is an intermediary and go-between, an actor who clarifies and reveals the sense of that which is not evident or manifest, offering tools for interpretation and keys to reading them. Cultural mediation is an essential function in the age of globalism, to allow communication but especially to preserve the diversity and variety of the local spirit. The speed of the flow of information risks creating disinformation if it is not balanced by the weight of interpretation. Thus we must avoid rushing to conclusions – we need to pause for reflection, adopt interpretive filters to frame the field and to give the proper importance to specific circumstances and conditions. Context is a fundamental element, and if we abstract and distract ourselves from the context there is a risk of misunderstanding. In order to see we must first acquire new eyes.

In Venice we have just passed the election weekend where we voted, in order of importance, for:

-the national referendum to approve the law modifying the constitution to reduce the number of parliamentarians;

-the regional vote to elect the Council and President of the Veneto Region;

-the local city vote to elect the City Council and Mayor of Venice.

To understand what happened, it is good to place events in the proper context, which is not only that of the situation in Venice but also the Italian national political panorama from the mid-1900s to today. We will trust in the reader’s indulgence, those who are or know an expert in Italian events, for whom the summary that follows may be judged to be superficial. In fact we tried to avoid the technical points of a deeper, specialized, detailed and exhaustive presentation, which requires the rigor and insight of an historian, toward a concise, mnemonic and agile reconstruction.

The Birth of the Republic

The fragmentation of the parties is a typical characteristic of politics in the Italian Republic, which was born with the plebiscite on June 2, 1946, in which the majority of the population chose to abandon the monarchy. The constitution was a joint exercise, but was not strong enough to overcome the divisions. The bipolar nature typical in American politics is essentially centered on the dualism of Democrats/Republicans, parties that include a plurality of voices, expressions, and shades such to give them the physiognomy and character of a pluralistic faction. In Italy, instead, there prevails a drive to stand out and divide into many parties. Coalitions are born with electoral aims or for needs of governing, when after having measured their own vote-earning power, parties join together to guarantee obtaining a majority in parliament.

In the second half of the 20th century Italian politics has presented three spheres of influence and 2 main parties:

  • the moderate/conservative center, which traditionally includes the majority of the population, where the Catholic world was positioned with a mass party, the Christian Democrats (DC), with roots on the ground thanks also to the capillary diffusion of the parishes;
  • the progressive/revolutionary left-wing, with the Communist Party (PCI), the second mass party to be widespread and entrenched in rural and urban areas, which shared principles, values and ideals (solidarity, equality, etc.) with the Catholic world;
  • the reactionary/subversive right-wing of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), which openly declared its ties to fascism even in its name (RSI was the abbreviation of the Italian Social Republic, the last bastion of fascism after the landing in Sicily and the armistice of Cassibile).

All around the centrist majority was a secular group of small minority parties who increased their power by taking advantage of a position which made them crucial in the formation of parliamentary majorities. Parties of the left and right that tended toward the center were a part of this group. Moving from the left were the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), the Italian Social Democratic Party (PSDI) and the Italian Republican Party (PRI). From the right was the Liberal Party (PLI). The majority of governments in the second half of the 20th century were a four-party or five-party coalition formed by these parties together with the DC.

While the majority of the conservative electorate supported the moderate anti-communist front (the DC), the fascist right-wing – with little electoral impact – worked behind the scenes and became subversive, plotting coups d’etat and carrying out murderous attacks (Piazza Fontana in Milan, Piazza della loggia in Brescia, Treno Italicus, the station at Bologna, …) with the complicity of corrupt secret service members and freemasons.

The End of the First Republic

On February 17, 1992, the phase known as the Prima Repubblicca came to a close with the arrest of the top Socialist for corruption, followed by a legal avalanche that engulfed the traditional parties, with no exceptions. The entire Italian ruling class (economic and political) was investigated and criminally prosecuted for corruption by the judges from the pool called “clean hands”. It is the scandal known as “tangentopoli”, which opened a tragic period of transition that led the powerful PSI Secretary Bettino Craxi to flee to Tunisia (which was called “exile” by his supporters), or to the suicide of various figures in the Italian industrial and political world, among whom were Raul Gardini, the head of the Ferruzzi family’s economic empire, promoter of Italian participation in the America’s Cup with the boat Moro di Venezia, but mainly the director of the privatization of ENT, thanks to the most significant bribe discovered to date, called the “mother of all bribes” (200 billion lire, equal to 100 million Euro, still nothing compared to the billion Euros diverted in the construction of MoSE). Tangentopoli struck at the heart of the Italian political and economic system. The business world lacked political references. The political parties were swept away, their offices emptied of militants, and political training schools became fewer. A metamorphosis had begun.

It was this institutional vacuum that opened a space for Silvio Berlusconi to enter the field and for the birth of Forza Italia, a party that was also born to protect his investment group Fininvest, which had its political reference in Craxi and the PSI, in a delicate and crucial moment that followed the success of the passage from real estate to telecommunications and advertising that gave life to the first and most important private television/radio media group. Forza Italia is a political project conceived in the hierarchical and top-down logic of business, involving leaders and officers of Fininvest and Publitalia in the organization and launching an advertising/promotional campaign with all the tools of communication readily available.

The minor parties vanished while the major ones tried to survive by dividing and changing names. The PCI became the PDS, then the DS, and finally the PD. The DC disappeared and divided, converging to the left and the right where two principle groups of the center-right (Polo della Libertà) and center-left (L’ulivo) were born. This seems to have been a prelude to a new bipolar organization of politics, but one which had to account for the new emerging subjects – destined to gain influence and power – that overtook the political scene with new party forms: from Forza Italia (party-business) to the Lega (party-movement) to the Movimento 5 Stelle (which harks back to Rousseau and his social contract). Forza Italia was born with the intent of intercepting the traditionally majority vote of the centrist moderate which, however, was divided, reducing their political capital. At that point Berlusconi shifted to the right, welcoming the MSI, which had promoted National Alliance, defined by Secretary Gianfranco Fini as “A strategy. Not a new party but a policy: to call together all those categories, economic classes, those spaces of society which today are at liberty because they no longer have references”. This affirmation is emblematic of this phase of transition, and created a new subject from the blurred borders that marked a sphere, an area that was not only confined in the form of a party.

Politics and Society: the Season of Reforms

The failure of the relationship of trust between voters and the elected undermined the foundation of democracy putting representation and delegation in crisis. The legal storm left its wreckage behind, and fifty years after the physical reconstruction of the country it was necessary to rebuild the relationship between politics and society to counteract the distancing of the citizens and the isolation of the parties. In the past politician had been considered a skilled occupation worthy of respect (the title for parliamentarians of Chamber of Deputies is Honorable) inasmuch as it meant a member of a solid and competent ruling class, the product of a rigorous course of dual training: politics in the party schools and on the ground, among the people. Investigations have demonstrated that in general the conduct of the parties has scarcely been honorable. Once the parties had been criminalized all that remained was the public square. The popular pressure of public opinion provoked the arrival of a period of institutional reforms aimed at:

  • reconfiguring the institutional architecture,
  • attenuate the role of the public subject,
  • confront the problem of ungovernableness.

The central issue was that of ungovernableness. Many claimed that is was necessary to go beyond the proportional system in favor of one based on a majority, which could finally bring an alternation that Italy had never known, the governments having been firmly in the hands of the Christian Democrats, who, despite this, were unable to overcome the instability that is characteristic of Italian politics. Going in the same direction is the tendency to aggregate within the two main fronts of the center-left and center-right.

Remaining on the subject of governability, it was considered useful to reduce the power of the parties and to try to overcome the mistrust of the citizens by allowing them to directly choose the “head”, a line that wanted to push all the way to hypothesizing a presidential type of contest for the Republic. This introduced the trend of personalizing politics, which then spread without geographic or cultural distinctions, a sign, along with populism, of the spirit of our times.

The first step in this direction was the law n. 81 of March 25, 1993, which sets guidelines for the election of city and regional councils, introducing the direct election of the Mayor, who up to then was designated by the city council and not by the voters. The Mayor was granted major new powers. It was the beginning of the trend of personalization in politics, which is a reflection of the weakening of institutions (parties, local and national government bodies), councils and parliament). The critical factor of this reform is the absence of counterweights that balance the man in sole command. In Venice for example, we have a Mayor who has stripped the municipalities, which are decentralized administrative structures, of their powers.

The tangible result of the new direction would be Berlusconi’s success in the first elections to use the majority system in 1994.

Conditions were not present for proceeding with courageous reforms, with a politics that is actually mistrusted by the citizenry. In this moment of catharsis, the parliament, noting its own weakness, seemed to abdicate its own legislative function and give the ball back to the citizen who would be asked to express himself on a series of delicate questions which would require competence and insights that were not influenced by the emotional impulse of indignation. Here we refer to the referenda of April 1993, unprecedented for its number, importance and variety of subjects, as well as the variety of its promoters, among who were:

  • The regions (who wanted to break away and present themselves as factors of renewal and political innovation, accentuating the division between the local and national dimension);
  • Movements (such as the civic and cross-party movement of Mario Segni that called for a single-member/majority electoral reform and – for the first time – took the name of its leader):
  • the Radical Party (a political subject sui generis, with little electoral weight but a large social following and political influence, as demonstrated by the epic battles for the divorce of 1970 and the abortion in 1978 which put the moderate and Catholic universe in the political majority into the minority).

The referenda addressed:

  1. USL responsibilities (the Unità Sanitarie Locali is the company that runs the public healthcare system – Ed.)
  2. Narcotics and psychotropic substances
  3. Public financing to the parties
  4. Savings banks and Monti di Pietà (for the nomination of the leaders – Editor)
  5. Suppression of the Ministry of State Holdings
  6. Election of the Senate of the Republic
  7. Suppression of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
  8. Suppression of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment

This confirms the desire to reshape the impact of the State in public life and the economy, as is well demonstrated by the abolition of the Ministry of State Holdings, which controlled the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI), founded in 1933 and which in 1993 was the seventh largest company in the world, with annual sales around 67 billion dollars.

Public financing to the parties was considered to reduce the risk of corruption, but supplied parties with insufficient resources, however, to support the growth of the costs of politics and the appetite of politicians, in whose pockets some part of the money ended up. It had become normal to pay a share of the value of contracts, projects or assignments to politicians, with percentages ranging between 5% and 10% depending on the value of the expenditure and the politician’s power of influence on the various economic sectors. The companies organized themselves into cartels, rigging the bids to divide up the work. To pay the bribes inflated offers were presented, then during the work variations and revisions of the costs were added to the contracts, and the companies accumulated “black funds” in foreign banks with falsified invoices. When corruption becomes so systematic it cannot be one part’s responsibility; the Italians found their scapegoat in politicians, but everyone hoped to enjoy the advantages of corruption, and so the state of affairs was tolerated, and seemed destined not to change. The legal offensive and the wave of arrests at every level clarified that beyond the advantages one also had to account for the risks.

Thus the damage to public finances was dual, with higher labor costs in addition to the missing revenue from tax evasion. The corruption of the system reached such dimensions that politicians and administrators were able to negotiate for a share of these significant resources. The result was that of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Cutting public political financing was a simplistic way of confronting the problem, especially when the corruption was being attacked. It would have been more important to work for an authentic cultural revolution against the immorality that was not only a problem of politicians. Raising the costs of the work was in fact allowed by the complicity of the technicians and public officials who approved the variations with revised prices and then tested the work while ignoring the incongruities of prices and expenses.

The renewal was sufficiently fast that it did not allow the time to form a new political class. At the same time the intermediate bodies (trade groups, unions, etc.) also entered into crisis, disowned by associations and movements that wanted to represent themselves. The fluid form of the movement dismantled the organized structure of the party, and the common man, with no other training than opposition and protest, was projected in to the palaces of power.

The Election System

Following the referendum, law n. 276 and 277 of August 4, 1993 approved the electoral reform called Mattarella (from the name the law’s sponsor, who today is President of the Republic), which introduced a mixed election system. We don’t wish to bore the reader by going into the details, like we’ll avoid doing with the other reforms, which we’ll limit ourselves to recalling briefly. This reform was nicknamed Mattarellum, adding the phonetic Latinisms. In December 2005 the law n. 270 (known as the Calderoli law, named after the minister for league reforms in the Berlusconi government), which called for a proportional election system corrected by a conspicuous premium for the majority and parties deciding about blocked lists. The law was approved close to the elections, without the support of the center-left opposition. In January 2014 the Constitutional Court declared the law partially unconstitutional, striking down the premium of majority and introducing the possibility of registering a vote of preference. The law was nicknamed Porcellum and the sponsoring minister called it an obscenity, declaring after the sentence, “Early on I said that the day after it would have to be changed. It took them eight years,” saying that he had had to give in to the blackmail of members of the former DC, gathered in the UDC and aligned with Forza Italia, Lega Nord and Alleanza Nazionale within the center-right coalition called Casa delle Libertà. This statement testifies to the stature of the emerging political class. The modified law, called Consultellum, remained in force until 2015, when it was replaced by law n. 52, nicknamed Italicum, and the result of a pact between its sponsor, Matteo Renzi (Secretary of the PD) and Silvio Berlusconi (president of Forza Italia). This law was also declared partially unconstitutional, with the result that though it applied for the election of the Chamber of Deputies, for the Senate of the Republic the Calderoli law still applied. This law was never enacted and in 2017 was replaced by law n. 165, nicknamed Rosatellum (from the name of the parliamentary sponsor Ettore Rosato of the PD). The law proposed a completely separate mixed system (that is in the absence of systems of compensation between the two methods of allocating seats). The result was a mixed electoral system based both on a proportional, multi-candidate and a one-candidate majority system.

Beyond the patchwork this affirmed the need for decision-making, and therefore for a strong man in sole command, launching a dangerous anti-democratic course of isolating the opposition and minorities. Those who thought differently, criticized or opposed were accused of defeatism and of belonging to the party of blocking, of not doing, almost as if doing something haste was a virtue, not doing it well.

Other Reforms

Law n. 56 of 2014 (known as the Del Rio law from the minister who proposed it) redefined the organization of the provinces (which are decentralized administrative entities that are between the city and regional level, merging various small communities with a provincial capital and instituting the metropolitan cities (which total 14) and was accompanied by the constitutional reform project of 2016 which called for the suppression of the provinces as constitutionally necessary entities, and which did not pass the constitutional referendum.

If Mohammed doesn’t go to the mountain the mountain goes to Mohammed; this is the reason why if the Constitution prevents the approval of laws and reforms, politics tries a direct assault, and after some modifications to the contents of the Carta Costituzionale, attacks the fort by trying to change the Constitution with the Renzi-Boschi constitutional reform law of 2016. This was resoundingly defeated by the Italians with the referendum of 4 December 2016, to which procedure the sponsors had to turn because the reform was never approved by the required majority of at least 2/3 of parliamentarians, as prescribed by law. The reform called for:

  • elimination of equal bicameralism by depriving the Senate of its current legislative powers and conferring only to the Camera the powers of political direction and control of the operation of the government;
  • the transformation of the Senate into a body that represents territorial institutions;
  • removal of references to the provinces from the Constitution;
  • changes to the election of the President of the Republic;

The President of the Council Renzi and Secretary of the PD Renzi emerge defeated by the referendum and imprudently initiated reforms – such as those in the provinces – remained half completed. The defeat led to the fall of the government and the elections of 2018, which saw the populist challenge and success of the M5S which brought about an unusual alliance with Salvini’s Lega, giving life to the first populist government. The Lega, after alternating alliances with the center-right and center-left, shifts decisively to the right, bypassing Berlusconi and moving closer to Fratelli d’Italia, an eloquent name for a growing party that looks to the ideals of fascism. Public opinion was influenced by stoking irrational fears and anxieties, perceived but not always real. Policy hinged on suspicion and aversion toward Europe (effectively unable give impulse to the process of political growth with little solidarity, in which the differences grow between the economically strong countries of the North and the weaker ones in the Mediterranean, with Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain suffering), on internal security, and on opposition to immigration even at the cost of:

  • leaving thousands of people to drown;
  • fighting the ONG which is trying to save as many as possible, considering them accomplices of human traffickers and not independent subjects working on humanitarian fronts;
  • going against international law and human rights (to the extent that Minister of the Interior will then be investigated and shortly will be tried;
  • financing Libya, where immigrants and refugees are imprisoned and tortured by bloodthirsty gangs, leading the United Nations to consider the coast of Libya insecure.

Forza Italia, the party that wanted to intercept moderates, lost strength and seemed destined to disband, leaving the field free for the populist and nationalist right-wing. That government did not last long due to Salvini’s ambition which, with him counting on growing support and a majority that polls gave him in case of elections, brought down the government. Unexpectedly, however, a new majority was formed in parliament by M5S, the PD and small parties of the left that gave life to the second Conte government.

Here we are at the present, then, with all these unresolved issues coming to roost. Political instability has been accentuated, weakening governability. Personalization has accentuated conflict and contradictions rather than attenuate them. The hoped for bipolarism remains incomplete. The civic movements struggle to become governing powers and to form a new political ruling class. The volatility spills over into the electorate and is reflected in the parties. Advertising has taken the place of information. Debate is replaced by a clash of slogans. The prejudicial opposition of conflicting factions within and with the surroundings feeds the disinformation which dulls the citizen’s critical understanding. The debate has been reduced to a monologue, as in the case of Venice, where the incumbent Mayor did not appear in the State television debates, preferring instead advertising on the web or TV networks sponsored by businesses connected to him.

The subject of the reform of the institutional architecture at the national scale (Parliament) and the local scale (Municipalities) remains unresolved. A group of economically stronger Northern regions are calling for autonomy (Lombardia, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna) in virtue of article 116 which establishes how regions with balanced budgets can request to be assigned greater competencies. At the same time the entities that request greater powers do not grant them to the lesser institutions on the hierarchical scale of local institutions. For example, the Veneto region claims greater powers, but does not give the Metropolitan City of Venice those that compete; similarly the Mayor (who is also Mayor of the Metropolitan City, an unelected body) claims powers for the Metropolitan City but takes them away from the municipalities, which are decentralized bodies of urban administration.

Local entities become a springboard for getting to the national spotlight but also, vice-versa, a safe haven for many exponents of national politics who are losing their political influence. Polarization around a person, however, provokes conditions of conflict for the competition between regional presidents and the national leadership group of the parties. This explains the tensions between the President of Emilia-Romagna Bonaccini and the PD Secretary Zingaretti, between the President of Veneto Zaia and the Secretary of the Lega Salvini, and between the President of Liguria Toti and Berlusconi.

The 2020 Elections

In this week’s election a group of six regions (Campania, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Toscana, Veneto) will elect 1,080 city council seats, among them in six major cities (Aosta, Arezzo, Reggio Calabria, Trento, and Venezia). The most important fronts of the political battle are the city elections in Venezia and the regional elections in Toscana, the results of which will influence national equilibria and alliances, as demonstrated by the crowded runway of members of the national political scene and government we have witnessed in Venice. Here the elections take on national attention and value, much like was the case in Emilia-Romagna last year; but while there the risk was that of losing a traditionally red region, here – after having lost the city five years ago – the risk is that of delivering the city – apart from to speculation – to the right-wing, which, unlike five years ago, has formed a coalition with the Mayor for the first vote. Whatever people say, there is a mutual reverberation between the national and local levels, among alliances and within the parties, all in fibrillation.

These elections will be remembered most of all for the electoral campaign sui generis, with the absence of public debates, social distancing in the plaza, and the redundancy of messages and posts on social media. The lack of framing the unresolved questions of the Venetian reality in a unified picture is striking.

The referendum for the reduction of parliamentarians is a battle horse of the M5S and is in the governing program. This seems to be the only reason that the PD has formally endorsed Yes, in order to not bring down the government, and a good part of the party will probably vote No. The risk is that of stymying reform with quantitative measures rather than a thoughtful reconfiguration of the subject, which must be addressed in all its complexity, underestimating interactions and consequences. In this way a general principal is affirmed (the reduction of parliamentarians and the costs of politics) more to satisfy the widespread anti-politics impulse than to enact a thoughtful reform that does not reduce guarantees and weaken the power of representation for the minor communities and political minorities in parliament.

In the Veneto Region the success in the fight against Covid-19 made Zaia’s approval fly high, to the point that Salvini felt his national leadership was being undermined and ran another list for the Lega in the election, alongside the Zaia for President list. As has been well described by Adriana Vigneri in an article published on (, administering the status quo is different than working from the perspective of a short, medium and long term vision.

The Case of Venice

The center-left was committed to trying to win back a city it has lost control of thanks to the MoSE scandal, but also due to the omissions and errors committed in decades of governing by the center-left, first of all the inability to address the complex problems which the Venezia-lagoon context involves due to a lack of vision and therefore of an orientation for the future of the city. Reliance on the tourism industry as the prevailing activity for the city’s economy after the sunset of the industrial dream for Porto Marghera is not new to the latest Mayor. Likewise neither are: the sell-off of public properties at the cost of services to the citizens (as has been the case in the area of the ex-gasometri), growth in tourist lodgings, the absence of a policy in support of housing able to combat the exodus from Venice and from Mestre, the wavering behavior towards the municipalities, first empowered, then progressively weakened. Not to mention MoSE and the cruise ships and the port and the safeguarding of the lagoon… subjects that have never been addressed contextually and in a unified way (as instead it is hoped will finally be done by the new Lagoon Agency, thanks to representatives of Venetian politics and the national government). However, it would be unjust to recall only the errors and not the merits: from the enhancement of social services to interlocution and dialog with associations, from the system of public cultural spaces, coordinated with all the municipal public entertainment venues in Mestre to the green system with the forest of Mestre project and new parks, from the urban design interventions that allowed Mestre to pass from a place with no centers to having piazza Ferretto to via Poerio, from the restoration of the Toniolo Cinema to a theater to that of Villa Erizzo, to the transportation system with bicycle paths, trams, etc. The panorama of merits and defects listed here is not exhaustive. What we want to underline is that Mayor Brugnaro took advantage of the existing cracks to give impetus to errors and lead the city astray, cruelly plunging and turning the knife in an already open wound.

Venice Is a National Case

In the City the center-left joined with and deployed a Venetian member of the national government, Undersecretary of the Economy Baretta, in opposition to an incumbent Mayor who aspired to be re-elected, no longer as a civic candidate but supported by a right-wing coalition. Five years ago Brugnaro appeared to be a “civic” novelty, with local roots, considered by many as an opportunity for change and renewal of the political class (not only within the parties but obtained by drawing on society). Today Brugnaro has dropped the vest of “civic” because he understood that if he were to continue governing alone as he has done in recent years he finds himself without a majority, and so he has moved towards a coalition that is markedly right-wing, hoping to use Zaia’s Lega as a springboard – oops, Salvini’s Lega – here, in fact, is another of the reasons why these elections are a national issue, the confrontation between the national and the local dimension. The center-left, for its part, is not in the government in the city or the region and so is trying to accredit itself as a national governing party and bring to the lagoon national representatives of the parties and the government.

Another element is the opposition of the two main factions formed by the center-left coalitions (which brings together the governing powers, less the M5S) and of the right-wing (which includes the right-wing and governing opposition). The outcome of this election will have significance. The M5S distanced itself from its government allies (the PD and the left), did not enter into a coalition and ran on its own.

Venice is an International Case

The group of those around the world who love Venice is large. Many have homes here, and along with the many others who only visit and love it, commit themselves to Venice, no longer just to finance restorations but to support that which is a world city, not just because it is included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, nor solely for its artistic and monumental heritage, but because it is exemplary in many aspects. Venice is a miracle as a utopia realized, and owes its quality to social relations and to living in a place in which the dialog with the environment is an inevitable necessity. Venice can be a national laboratory of political, social and environmental culture, of dialog between the local level and the global level, or it can try to escape its own responsibilities by taking refuge in the provincial dimension.

Some have ended up putting forward the hyperbolic proposal of an international government for the city, but that is not what is required. Venice must find the resources within and then join the particularity of its local dimension with the international dimension. From this perspective there is hope in the recent election of the first female Rector in the history of the University of Ca’ Foscari, Professor Tiziana Lippiello, a Sinologist.

The recognition of Venice’s special status would without question be useful, with a special statute that ratifies its exceptionality, just as locating international institutes and agencies would help.

These are the conditions and the context for the 2020 election; now all that remains is to suspend judgement, and calmly evaluate the election results.


Giovanni Leone is an architect living in Venice, the city of his choice (having wanted to live in this house in the form of a city) and adoption (after having landed there from the other end of Italy), where he was welcomed: first in the community of out-of-town students, and migrants/inhabitants, who metabolize and spread around the world the awareness that a different way of life, on a human scale, is possible; later welcomed in the Venetian community, especially among the populace, introduced to the pleasures of the lagoon, the culture of land (gardens and fields) and water (boats and fishing) and islands; before, during and after, from a habitat that is an environmental and social context to be worn as a dress in whose pockets the spirit of the place is deposited.





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