Online petitions by parliamentarians: manifesto of irrelevance or the only possible way?


“It’s an act of desperation,” he sighs Alessandro Campi, professor of political science at the University of Perugia. Petitions and referendums. From top to bottom. It is the horizontal politics, mocked and offended at the time of the “first” Cinquestelle Movement. Today in great vogue in all party secretariats. For some, the only possibility of making themselves heard in an increasingly immobile Parliament, chained to government decrees.

In less than a year on social media we saw a carousel of signature collections promoted by parliamentarians, the attempt to patch every time the tear produced by the Parliament itself that fails to legislate: in the front row is Italia Viva, in the majority of the Draghi government, launches a petition for compulsory vaccination on its website. The Democratic Party hunts for signatures through the Change.org platform, that is the “Google of modern politics” which allows users to launch petitions on political and social issues of all kinds. We find the one to ask for the “dissolution of neo-fascist movements and parties such as CasaPound and Forza Nuova”, launched by the president of the Democratic Party Valentina Cuppi, mayor of Marzabotto.

And with enthusiasm, through social media and interviews, the deputies Marianna Madia and Filippo Sensi support the petition to ask the Government not to set aside, after the exclusion from the Budget Law, the Mental Health Bonus, a measure to support those in need of a path of psychological or psychiatric support. A success that today counts 200 thousand signatures.

MEP dem Pina Picierno launches the petition: “Enough public funds for newspapers that use discriminatory language.” And if the secretariat of the Democratic Party has already toyed with the idea of ​​a popular initiative law against homotransphobia, after the collapse of the Zan bill; in the chats of the militants the collection of signatures bounces for: «Berlusconi at the Quirinale? No thank you”. It is the spirit of the time, it embraces the whole constitutional span. The League in April had launched a petition to say “No to curfew”. Brothers of Italy to discourage the Minister of Health, Roberto Speranza.

Collected signatures and clicks in the name of the people, they light up in neon the progressive impoverishment of the ruling classes. The personal interest that prevails over that of the party. As he explains Gianfranco Pasquino, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Bologna: “The crucial problem for a parliamentarian now is to continue to exist even after the reduction in numbers and to have visibility”. Existing in the performance society is only possible in one way: by seeking consensus through clicks. «Having a minimum of visibility is what they need. Not just to get to their constituents. But to reach their colleagues and make the secretariats understand that they are popular, that is, they interpret the sentiment of the electorate “.

“This tool try to create a fake participatory channel. The appeal is direct, aimed at things that have an emotional appeal. A form of soft populism – continues Campi – For a parliamentarian to rely on the petition is a sign of a problem, he should use other procedural tools. You can’t just make laws by popular acclaim ». The intent, little hidden under “the cause of the day” and clearly visible: «To take back the scene. Parliamentarians have experienced a frightening loss of political role. And these petitions say a lot about the institutional crisis: if the representatives of the people are not recognized in their representative function, the mechanism of parliamentary democracy is skipped. A bad solution. It is all very ephemeral: you try to gain some visibility but you fall into the error. In this way, an authentic trust mechanism is not recreated, but an emotional relationship in the field of visibility: a few interviews, a statement. To then return to the oblivion from which you tried desperately to get out ».

Not everyone agrees. “This is an acknowledgment of reality” the cue in the chorus is of Piero Ignazi, former director of the magazine il Mulino, full professor of Comparative Politics at the School of Political Sciences of the University of Bologna and chercheur associé at the Cevipof (Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques) in Paris: “Communications and relationships are no longer face to face do but through the network. This is a fact. There are no longer any collective mobilizations and this is the only way to provoke popular, mass support. This gives more strength to parties to promote opinions. The party and the parliamentarians must keep in touch with public opinion this is one way ».

One wonders, however, whether “the way” marks the end of politics and the beginning of a new one. «Difficult to answer. We are in a transition phase, ”he explains Massimiliano Panarari, sociologist and professor at the Mercatorum University. «The political model is officially in crisis. We live in a context animated by populist tendencies that are highly appreciated by public opinion. So the parliamentarian gears up to look for a role. It is not easy, in a context in which it is the proxy that has been put in the dock of the parliament. Even the “Spid Democracy” to which L’Espresso had dedicated the cover, is within this context. The point is that if society is not represented in an organic way, these risk being individual sporadic initiatives. Politics becomes bricolage and from the idea of ​​general representation that constitutes Parliament we move on to the partial representation of individual issues. A trend already underway that leads to political foundations that are essentially single issues “.

Clicks, online signatures are not modernity, Panarari underlines, but a return to the past: «In view of one’s positioning and the growth of one’s bargaining power. We are living in the political era of transformation: everyone aims to become attractive to other political groups as well. Through these petitions, the parliamentarians try to bring something as a dowry. This is a great return to the nineteenth century. It is noble politics: the single parliamentarian, at the time the single deputy, was one who had a wealth of his own: of votes, of resources. A shadow that returns ».


Source: L'Espresso – News, inchieste e approfondimenti Espresso by espresso.repubblica.it.

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