The Italian Democratic Party, the main engine of Italian social democracy, is desperate to find a leader to pull it out of the quagmire it has been in since Matteo Renzi first left his general secretary in 2017. So much, some might think, that he is about to entrust himself to a woman who was not born in Italy and who does not even have a training card. But that’s part of the fun. Elly Schlein is a meteor born from the sign of these times. Politics (37 years old) rose to fame through the channel in which politicians who have painted something in Italy in recent years do, those who are capable of winning elections. Social networks promoted a video shared 4.5 million times where the Elly Schlein of three years ago stripped the Matteo Salvini of that time on the subject of immigration. It lasted two minutes and 11 seconds. She approaches the leader of the League after a press conference in the Italian region of Emilia Romagna. And she asks him a question:
“Matteo, do you remember me?” I am an old colleague from the European Parliament. I wanted to ask you a question, because I’ve been asking you for some time and you never answer me.
“Elly… tell me,” she answers, already fearing the worst.
—Why have you never come to the 22 meetings on the reform of the Dublin regulation? Do you know what is the most important immigration reform for Italy?
“Wait a second, my friend…” Salvini replies as he takes out his cell phone and begins to consult it as if something urgent were calling for him, actually waiting for something to happen in the meantime that will take him away from the uncomfortable question. A follower, an autograph, a selfie, someone from security… It always happens. No one comes to the rescue this time.
Salvini had to leave mumbling excuses. She became a heroine in the networks and the most voted candidate in the last elections in Emilia Romagna. In the end someone gave him a taste of her own medicine. But almost three years later, she wants more. And she will now be a candidate for the Democratic Party primaries with a disruptive agenda, somewhat exaggerated and gesticulated. Perhaps too much for a large part of the party, that she is inclined to choose the one who was her candidacy partner in Emilia Romagna and current president of that region, Stefano Bonaccini. A profile with more experience and solvency, but less pop.
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The polls, in fact, bet on him. The latest survey carried out by Nando Pagnoncelli, in charge of the survey apparatus of the Corriere della Sera, says that 25% of the citizens favor Bonaccini, while only 12% do so for her (6% favor Paola de Micheli, the third candidate for the primaries). The problem for the party is that 22% believe that “it would be better if any other candidate were presented” and 35% do not even have an opinion. Among PD voters, the difference between the two is even more pronounced. But the primaries of the Social Democrats take place through a vote open to all citizens, something that maintains the optimism of his candidacy.
Elly Schlein (Lugano, 37 years old) is the daughter of this political time. Woman, bisexual —as she explained herself—, feminist, anti-liberal and skilled communicator. In addition, she is fast and knows how to move in the mud of populism. And that is what the Italian Democratic Party is looking for, in full decomposition and on the verge of collapse after a failed strategy in the last elections. Enrico Letta, the current secretary, leaves. And he has to choose between a line more or less of the establishment (can) of the party like Bonaccini or bet on the total change. “If he wins, it would mean that the party goes back to the left,” says his spokeswoman sarcastically. Schlein’s bet, seen by some as a kind of transalpine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – it is not known if that adds or subtracts today – would be an aggressive swerve. For some, a recklessness in a still very conservative country like Italy. But perhaps the only movement that can save a party that is adrift and that loses support with each new poll that is published.
Schlein was born in Lugano (Switzerland) in 1985. The daughter of university professors, an Italian mother and an American father, she moved to Bologna at the age of 18 to study law and became the “adopted daughter” of the region. She volunteered in Obama’s two electoral campaigns and, when she returned in 2012, she participated in the electoral campaign of Italy’s Bene Comune, the progressive alliance that Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party (PD) set up in 2013 and which failed to achieve the enough votes to govern. She made quite a mess with a movement she called the Occupy PD to try to prevent the government that they were going to do with Berlusconi. Before she was elected to the European Parliament —with 54,000 votes— she left the PD and later co-founded Possibile, a party with former leaders of the PD that sought to be a kind of Italian-style Podemos from which she also ended up leaving.
The game will be decided in March and will set the course of a party that has no clear leader since Matteo Renzi left. “In fact, they have something in common. the two are something outsiders [fuera del sistema] and with new ideas. They are at the antipodes ideologically, but they can cause a similar illusion effect, ”say sources from the formation.
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