by Vittorio Maccarrone

Reforming Italian institutions to adapt them to the geopolitical challenges of our time, intervening at the constitutional level to finally give Italy a vertical of power that, with the necessary counterweights proper to a republican state, guarantees the governmental stability essential to the proper performance of democratic functions.

The majority that will emerge from the Sept. 25 elections, should it manage to remain cohesive after the vote and broaden its reformist intentions to include representatives of different political backgrounds, will have the arduous but no longer postponable task of redefining the Italian institutional set-up. Transforming it in a presidential sense, streamlining the decision-making process, drastically reducing the power of vetoes, giving the future Italian premier the power to move, especially in foreign policy, away from party squabbles. On pain of irreversible slippage of our country toward Praetorian-like destinations, already highly reluctant as it is to defend its interests in the world also due to structural deficiencies.

Italy's chronic political instability

The fall of Mario Draghi was met with astonishment by international chancelleries, incredulous at the Belpaese's inability to bet to the last on an objectively capable and authoritative Prime Minister, but not at all surprised at Italy's inherent institutional instability. That of the former president of the European Central Bank was the 67th executive in Republican history. In just under 77 years, Italy has changed an average of almost one government per year. Apart from the exceptions of the Craxi, Berlusconi and Renzi governments, postwar executives have never passed the 1,000-day mark. In contrast, those who are (un)fortunate enough to sit in Palazzo Chigi participate in the same international forums as France and Germany, two nations that have had in the same time frame only nine to ten heads of government each, less than a third of ours. Angela Merkel has ruled in Germany for sixteen years, although in the last period even the longest-serving chancellor in German history has had to conduct grueling negotiations to keep the governing coalition strong.

The historical weakness and perennial instability of the governments of republican Italy peg the credibility of our representatives in the international arena, undermine the negotiating power of the Prime Minister grappling with autocrats and great powers, and contribute to inexorably relegating the Peninsula to a subordinate role.

Geopolitical clouds in the east and south

The geopolitical challenges that Italy will not be able to escape in the coming years must push Rome for an urgent change of course. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has accelerated the dynamics of history. In a matter of weeks, the European Union has excluded Moscow from any integration into the European arena through a drastic sanctions regime; Germany has partially corrected its post-war economicist set-up by announcing a mammoth military rearmament plan; Italy significantly reduced its use of Russian gas, to which it was historically dependent; Finland and Sweden abandoned neutralism to join NATO.

Added to the events coming from the post-Soviet world are the turmoil on the southern flank, an area of extraordinary importance to Italy, on which security and regional influence projection depend. North Africa's state and socioeconomic instability, exacerbated by the food catastrophe that has been merely postponed for now, constitutes a ticking time bomb that threatens to explode at any moment. While the new Turkish and Russian neighbors, who have been dividing up what remains of Libya for years now, have by imperial vocation and ease in the use of the military instrument the ability to increase pressure from the south also through the skillful use of energy and migration leverage. The increasing activism of middle powers little averse to conducting assertive warlike maneuvers in our own backyard is an issue that should trigger the reaction of politics, in the classic coup de revoir necessary to get out of the quicksand before finally sinking. Italian intelligence services, as noted by "Repubblica", have already warned of the possibility that Russian mercenaries from Wagner, now at home in Cyrenaica, might decide to open the taps and let thousands of migrants leave in the direction of Italy. Blackmail power is also in the hands of Turkish President Erdogan, with the Tripoline Coast Guard long under Ankara's control.

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Why we need presidentialism

The historical contingency for reforming the state is, therefore, favorable. The impelling need to equip itself with the governmental stability and vertical power characteristic of presidential or semi-presidential systems is justified by several factors.

First, protection by the United States with its nuclear umbrella will continue, but their focus on containing China in the Indo-Pacific, with a disengagement already underway from the Middle East, requires European countries to assume greater responsibility. Italy included. And a weak government, perpetually under blackmail by cross-vetoes, shaky due to an insufficiently cohesive or insufficiently large majority, is anything but credible internationally. Even with Draghi in government. The image of the almost former prime minister on the Prado bench, away from his NATO colleagues because he was on the phone trying to resolve domestic quarrels and forced to return early from his mission with the goal of not bringing down the executive, is emblematic.

Second, other nations are considering updating their international posture. Japan and Germany, countries defeated in World War II just like Italy, have already taken steps to re-enter history in their own right. In addition to the aforementioned German rearmament, Tokyo, too, has for years initiated a discussion to overcome the principle of pacifism in the Constitution, imposed by the United States to avert another Japanese war of aggression after Pearl Harbor. Similarly, the Italian constitution, also written under American dictation in order to prevent the return of a strong state after the mistakes and horrors of the dictatorial experience, was a luxury that Italy afforded itself partly because of the guarantee of American protection. Which, today, is much weaker than then.

Crisis and verticalization of power

French General Charles De Gaulle, in 1958, succeeded in getting a constitutional reform passed that gave more powers to the executive in response to the crisis over the independence of Algeria, then under French colonial rule. The new constitution was sewn to De Gaulle, who demanded greater powers to deal with the emergency. French presidents since then have had the power to order a nuclear strike without going through parliament-which is also why those who sit in the Elysee Palace are called "republican monarchs." The war situation that directly affects Italy today should push the parties to come to terms on the reforms to be adopted, just as the French did at a similar time characterized by insecurity and a harbinger of instability.

Here, then, the magnitude of the threats on the horizon demands the pursuit of more noble goals. A constitution close to the presidential model, which abandons regionalist ambitions and gives more powers to the president -- notably in foreign policy -- accompanied by an electoral law that ensures governability, is imperative. And it must be a priority of the next government, which must also involve a large part of the opposition in the project. Not for mere numerical data necessary for the approval of reform, but to gain the broadest legitimacy in support of a radical change that could equip the country to deal with growing geopolitical turmoil. Horizontally diffused power will have to give way to a more vertical one that can act, even from a long-term perspective, to ensure our country's survival in the world.

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A journalist and geopolitical analyst, he works for a communications agency and writes for "Il Caffè Geopolitico." He previously had experience with Mediaset, Institute for Cultural Relations Policy (Hungary) and European Public Law Organization (Greece). Master's degree in "World politics and international relations" (University of Pavia) with a master's degree in Journalism (Catholic University of Milan).