When Team Peterson (yours truly, Kelsey, Guy and their husbands, significant others and children) travels we have certain traditions.
One of them is that each person is responsible for choosing a topic to research and report on to the rest of the team during the early part of each journey. This must be a broad, important area of interest and one that requires a fair amount research which is expected to be undertaken long before the trip takes place.
On this trip to Sicily, Kelsey chose to research and report on the cuisine of Sicily. Guy chose the history of Sicily since the unification of the country in 1861. Chelsea chose to report on the culture of Sicily and Brian selected to research and report on the Mafia. I chose to report on the political system in Italy.
There are some guidelines. Powerpoints are encouraged. Handouts are applauded.
All presentations are judged by the Team. And the loser pays dearly. For example, on this trip the loser (1) must sit in the far back, 3rd seat of the van that we have rented, (2) is responsible for gathering each person’s dirty clothes that need to be washed, seeing to it that they are washed and dried, and return them to each person folded, and (3) be the navigator on twists and turns in the daily driving done by Dad – that’s me. Needless to say, no one wants to come in last in the voting.
But most importantly, there is pride involved. So, for example, Guy came in last on the Morocco trip and has been hearing about it ever since. He is determined to do a better job this time around. He is feeling a lot of pressure.
Tonight during dinner we had the first three of the presentations for this trip. Two more are to follow tomorrow. Stay tuned.
Kelsey provided an excellent summary of the cuisine of Sicily, highlighted by a laminated handout for each person to keep which has pictures and brief descriptions of 20 unique dishes and offerings that are special to Sicily.
Guy, a little nervous for reasons noted above, followed with a very good analysis of what has happened to southern Italy, and especially Sicily during and since Mussolini time in the early part of the 20th century. The bottom line is that since the country was unified in the 1860’s the southern part of Italy, south of Rome, and particularly Sicily has been neglected and prayed upon by northern Italian interests. The exception to this was during the time of Mussolini’s reign. So, manufacturing and fashion industry jobs once prevalent in Sicily have all been relocated and moved to northern Italy. Today the biggest problem in Sicily is unemployment, especially for recent college graduates. 50,000, almost 10% of their population, emigrated from Palermo last year.
Yours truly reported on the Italian political system, and I must admit I knew very little about it before I did my research. When the allied powers won World War II and Mussolini was defeated a constitutional parliamentary democratic republic was created. The Constitution was put into effect in 1948, just 70 years ago. They, like us, have three branches of the federal government – the judiciary, the legislative and executive. The judiciary are appointed, not elected, for life. The Amanda Knox trials have obviously raised some issues about the functioning of the judiciary in Italy.
The legislative branch is interesting. It has a Senate of 315, not 100 like we do. It has Chamber of Deputies like our House of Representatives with 630 members as opposed to our 437. But three major differences between theirs and the one we have in the United States. Their federal elected legislators serve 5 year terms and cannot run again. We have 2 and 6 year terms with no limit on reelection. Second, only 37% of the elected delegates are directly elected, the remaining 63% are elected by their party’s proportional success in the election. With a minimum of 3% required to receive proportional representation, if the party of the candidates you vote for garners 5%, for example, of the public vote, then that party may select additional members of its party to serve in the legislative chambers up to but not to exceed 5% of the total membership of the legislative bodies. Finally, the other significant difference from our system is who can vote. For the lower house you have to 18 to vote, just like the USA. But for the Senate you have to be 25 to vote for them.
A couple of other interesting facts. The Senate does have a few Senators for Life. And both houses have 6 and 12 respectively seats reserved for individuals who represent Italians who live abroad.
The major fact of life in the Italian political system is the number of parties. There are not two major parties as there is in the United States. Far from it in Italy. There are many, many parties in Italy. They come and they go. They change their names. They change their focus. Some are regionally based. Others are one issue parties. The four biggest ones seem to be the Democratic Party, the Northern League, Forza Italia, and the 5Star Movement. No party has come close to be able to get a majority in either of the houses in the parliament. So, they end up trying to form coalitions to be able to govern, and this has created some strange bedfellows over the years. It has not been smooth, and it often has not gone well. It has often lead to deadlock.
The executive branch is lead by a President, who has a 7 year term, but is not elected directly be the public, but rather is elected in a secret ballot by the Parliament. In addition the post is largely ceremonial. The day to day running of the government falls on the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers (Cabinet). The PM is nominally appointed by the President but in reality is the person who can cobble together a coalition of parties to be majority in the Legislature.
One of the big issues here in Italy at this time is the same issue that Donald Trump has raised in America. What about these immigrants. Nationalism is alive and well in Italy as well as in several other European countries. It is definitely not just an American issue. Steve Bannon, recently on Donald Trump’s White House staff and significant player in the Trump campaign organization, has been spending a lot of time in Europe attempting to assist those wanting to push the Nationalism issue in various countries. He and others were hoping that the recent European Union countries’ election would see a significant increase in support for candidates and parties that believe in the Nationalism thrust. However, they were disappointed when the results were far short of what they were hoping for. Italy, however, was the one exception. Here they did gain some ground.
At the same time that Steve Bannon’s ideas gained some ground in Italy, he received a set back in Italy. In recent months he had signed a lease to utilize what had previously been a monastery to start an institute/school for training existing and potential candidates throughout Europe in the ideology and campaign techniques needed to be successful. However, now the Italian government has determined that this is not an appropriate use of what was once a religious institution and denied the lease. Bannon is appealing the ruling.
This is probably a lot more information than you wanted to know about the Italian political system. I appreciate you wading through this. There will be a test at a later date so stay tuned.
Hopefully this gives you a feel for one of our Team Peterson traditions.