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Professionals without support in parliament

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In Austria it is considered to fill the ministerial posts with experts without party ties until the new elections. Italy has shown that it can work – but only if Parliament cooperates.

Italy knows that: Whenever the country is deep in crisis, the reflex comes to disregard an expert government. The last time last year. After the parliamentary election, which did not bring a clear majority, President Sergio Mattarella commissioned economics professor Carlo Cottarelli to set up a cabinet of experts to give Italy a lead in difficult times.

But Cottarelli failed because of the central problem that an expert government always has: as clever as it is, it needs a majority in parliament for every small decision. Starting with the vote of confidence. And already here, the parties starved the expert Cottarelli on the outstretched arm.

No parliamentary majority – no power

Although nominated by the president, Cottarelli was unable to organize a reliable majority for himself in parliament in days of talks with the party leaders. Frustrated, Cottarelli returned his government mandate.

The expert then pleaded for political rule for stability: „Forming a political government is by far the better solution for the country, and avoiding uncertainties that would mean new elections if an expert government fails.“

The Cabinet Ciampi – Savior of the state budget

In the recent past, Italy has also had positive experiences with expert governments. The mother of all expert governments in Italy, the Cabinet Ciampi, has an almost mythical reputation. When Italy experienced the worst political crisis of the post-war period after the Tangentopoli scandal in 1993 and pushed the debt burden in the state budget harder and harder, the respected head of the Italian central bank took over the premiership. Carlo Azeglio Ciampi prevented with his cabinet a complete crash of the country.

Specialists – asked at unpopular decisions

It was a similar story two years later, when Lamborghini became the head of the central bank. The pension reform decided by Dini ensured that Italy’s pension system survives, but is still a red scarf for many Italians because of the cuts it entails.

Mario Monti – the renovator

To enforce necessary but painful reforms that are unpopular with the electorate – this is a recurring pattern of Italian expert governments. Last but not least observed in the government of Mario Monti, who with severe fiscal policy in the crisis prevented the collapse of Italian public finances and also cutbacks for the Italians.

As Monti himself confidently stated, „I believe that the security of a government depends on its ability to act effectively and explain the impact of its actions to its citizens and to the parliament.“

Expert governments have a short half-life

What was at most half the truth for all expert governments in Italy. Often the parties left the rudder to the experts only to weather times of crisis and enforce the aforementioned unpopular reforms – and then withdrew support in Parliament if the polls prophesied opportunities for their own camp in new elections. The expert governments have always been governments with a short half-life.

However: The experts at the top found in their time in the premiership thoroughly enjoy the game with the political power. Ciampi, Dini and Monti – all three remained in politics after the end of their governments. Dini and Monti founded their own, then less successful parties. Ciampi later became president. One of the most successful and popular ever.