Italy sure knows how to stage a political comeback. Mere weeks after the new centre-left/populist coalition finally managed to get off the ground, former prime minister Matteo Renzi has departed the left-wing Democratic Party (PD) to found his own: Italia Viva.
It’s an interesting choice for a party name. The literal translation of Italia Viva, which had already been used as a slogan during some PD campaigns, is Alive Italy. It’s a clear reference to Renzi’s belief that rival left-wing parties are a stale thing of the past. He, on the other hand, wants his new party to be “joyful and fun”. But there’s another twist. Swap the order of the words and the meaning of Viva Italia changes, becoming Go Italy; the same translation also applies to Silvio Berlusconi’s historical party name Forza Italia.
Is this a subliminal – but strong – signifier of the fact that Renzi hopes his new party will earn votes from Berlusconi’s centre-right demographic? He and the 40 MPs who have decided to follow might like to think that they’ll broaden the consensus for the liberal side of the spectrum. But it’s perhaps more likely that this party will fragment a centre-left that’s perennially marred by internal squabbling. And with right-wing populists on their heels, that prospect is anything but joyful and fun.