So, now that election season is upon us-not just the over-the-top primaries in America, but the national elections here in Italy-I hear Tom's voice in my head. Every time I walk past the temporary boards erected in the piazza for political campaign posters, I hear the lilt and drawl as he said the word "politickin". The posters are not glued too effectively, so debrise is blowing everywhere when they peel off (or are pulled off). Campaign offices for various parties have sprouted up like mushrooms after a rain. Everyone is clamoring furiously for votes, as it winds down to this weekend. Elections in Italy are - I think, sensibly - held on a weekend and for two days to give everyone a chance to get to the polls.
And people need all the time they can get to cast their ballot...because there are no less than fifteen parties on the ballot. That is right, 15! Which actually represents only a fraction of the insane number of registered, official political parties operating in Italy. How insane? According to Reuters there are 180 "political parties, movements, lists, sub-lists, sub-parties and a myriad of other groupings" that form the nation's political landscape. No wonder the government falls so often.
Despite the fact that everyone (e-ver-y-one) asks me "Obama o Clinton?" when I turn the question around to inquire who they'll be voting for, I am met with grumbled responses that are not actually responses at all. (Sort of like Italian politicians, come to think of it.) The answers I receive are -
"Stronzi. Tutti sono stronzi." Turds. They're all turds.
"Ladri. Tutti sono ladri." Thieves. They are all thieves.
"Tutti sono uguale." They are all the same.
"Niente cambia mai." Nothing ever changes.
"Tutti parlano senza dire niente." They're all talk without saying a word.
"Boh." Beats the hell out of me.
Which all boils down to..."I'm not voting because it doesn't change a thing". Voter apathy, pure and simple. With such a complicated system of coalitions, double-dealings, talking heads, and power plays, I can't say I entirely blame them. But get out and vote they will...I hope. Fortunately, it will all be over soon enough. Unfortunately, given Italy's recent politcal history, we may be repeating it all anew in six months.
In case you're wondering...while we are residenti in Italy, we're not citizens and therefore not eligible to vote. Which is a great relief.
If, like my mom's friend Tom, you can't get you enough of that politickin, hop over to read some of these articles:
- GB of Italian Notebook explains about the campaign billboards
- Wikipedia's listing of parties and coalitions
- Bleeding Espresso's take on the fall of government and Silvio Berlusconi
Background on Italian elections at Election Resources
Makes our choices seem a lot simpler and clearer, no?
Since writing this post I had a strange experience. I was in the pasticceria that I've frequented since we moved here. The barista and I usually chat it up a bit, so I asked if he was voting. He answered, "yes, because if you don't vote you can't gripe about things afterwards." Then I inquired who he would be voting for. He stammered, told me it was a secret and cast his eyes downward. Strange, so I pointed out he asked me directly about my vote. You should know his attire for the day as it figures into the story. He was dressed in a black t-shirt underneath a red bottom-up shirt. He pointed to his chest and said, "I'm voting like this". Ah, from your heart? Good for you! No, he said...nero. Pointing to his outer red shirt he scowled, "I'm not voting red but black." Eh? Black shirts? As in...fascism? Stranissimo!