400 women in Italy’s Democratic Party protest ‘boys’ club’ culture

Hundreds of women in Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) have signed an appeal to party leaders, saying it must fix a sexist internal culture in order to restore its credibility.

400 women in Italy's Democratic Party protest 'boys' club' culture
Boys' club? The Democratic Party's secretary and heads of its parliamentary group in the two houses of parliament. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

“It's time to move from promises to action,” wrote PD senator Francesca Puglisi in the 'TowandaDem' petition, which has been signed by 460 women in the party.

She noted that in the previous legislation, the PD had the highest level of female representation in parliament, but was overtaken after the March 4th vote by both the Five Star Movement and parties on the right wing.

“We thought [the issue of female representation] was sorted. A fatal political error that we'll never repeat,” Puglisi wrote.

“The crisis of identity in the Democratic Party and the Party of European Socialists comes from the difficulty in representing society's needs and above all the weakest segments of society, which inevitably turn to populist promises,” the appeal continues.

“We have lost the battle against inequality. We haven't been able to create a vision of society people can believe and hope in.”

Puglisi and the other PD women have called on the party leadership to allow them to be “protagonists” in “the necessary founding phase of the party”, and for equal representation at every level of the PD.

READ ALSO: Italy's new parliament is younger, more diverse and more female

The writers claim that “in the Democratic Party, an increasingly closed and quiet leadership group is hiding behind delegations and talks made up only of men”.

“In parliament, deputies and senators have worked tirelessly to advance rights and freedom for women,” Puglisi continued, using the female form of both profession.

The accusations come as Italy's PD, along with many other major European centre-left parties, is suffering an identity crisis that has led to fractures and splits. 

These internal rifts came to the fore under former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who was seen by many as trying to change too much too fast with his planned sweeping reforms. Crucially, he tried to do this before amassing enough support within his own party.

At the start of 2017, a group of left-wing rebels left the party to form their own, the Progressive and Democratic Movement (DP), and called for “a left-wing renewal”.

Together with the Italian Left, formed in February last year, and Possible, a small leftwing party founded in 2015, the rebels formed the Free and Equal alliance, which just surpassed three percent of the vote in March's election — well below the predictions of opinion polls.

It's not just the left-wing groups that are male-dominated: all four of Italy's major political parties are currently led by men, and both houses of parliament are made up mainly of white men (the country elected its first ever black Senator in the March vote) middle-aged or older.

Two women led parties which ran in this year's election, but Emma Bonino's More Europe party failed to enter parliament, and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy was the junior ally in a three-way centre-right alliance with the League and Forza Italia.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy's Democratic Party



Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.