March 15, 2023
Luca Mazzacane
(Pavia, Italy)

Elly Schlein is the first female secretary of Partito Democratico since its establishment in 2009. That already sounds quite innovative for a political party such as Partito Democratico, which has been seen as desperate for a leftist identity and a young reformist vision. Schlein won the election over another prominent figure of PD, Stefano Bonaccini, Regional President of Emilia and Romagna. Stefano knew Elly well, their paths having already crossed.

So who’s Elly Schlein?

Before turning to active politics in Italy, she participated as a volunteer in Chicago at the two campaigns that led to Barack Obama's election to the U.S. presidency.

In 2013 Schlein launched and became one of the most recognizable faces of OccupyPd, a movement created to protest the 101 that had stopped Romano Prodi's run for the Quirinal. The following year she ran for the European Parliament, where somewhat surprisingly, she was elected. There she worked mainly on immigration, tax justice, the environment and the fight against the mafias. Leaving the PD with Matteo Renzi's arrival at the party, she was among the founders of "Possibile." In 2020, when her European Parliament tenure ended, she ran for the leadership of a list in support of Stefano Bonaccini, which brought together various left-wing experiences. Thanks to her results, she was appointed vice president of the Emilia Romagna region. 

Which way forward for Partito Democratico?

Elly Schlein's program for the PD 2023 primaries was called "Start with Us." The opening is not a quote, but a statement of intent of sorts, as social justice and climate are felt to be inseparable. As she stated:

"Because those most affected by the ongoing climate emergency are the most fragile and impoverished people by the crises, both globally and in our country, social rights and civil rights are inseparable; those who make hierarchies of them usually want to deny both."

On domestic legislation, Schlein proposes that there should be incompatibility between party positions and public and administrative functions, stopping the practice of double offices. Linked to party reform, she also wants to change the rules of the game with political reform: in her program, Schlein explicitly refers to the idea of reforming the electoral system, returning to citizens the choice of who to send to Parliament.

On taxes, for Schlein a new social contract means tax progressivity: those who have more must contribute proportionately more to the collective welfare. The right promises less taxes for all. The "flat tax." Amnesties. Schlein sees those as poisoned promises, because taxes pay for essential services for the whole community. To make Italy work better, we need to make the tax system fairer and more efficient.

On the issue of labor, Schlein's program tells us that in Italy, work has become increasingly precarious. Our country is the only one in the OECD area in which, from 1990 to 2020, the average annual real wage has decreased. Freelance, self-employed professional work is increasingly insecure and fragile. Italy is the European country with the highest number of NEETs: young people who do not work, study or seek employment. It is not enough to create new employment, says Schlein — it must be of quality and ensure a free and dignified existence. Our country needs a new industrial policy that radically changes production, consumption, and distribution models, and that achieves ecological conversion and digital transformation by redistributing the benefits.

Regarding gender equality, according to Schlein, a left that is up to the challenges of the present can only be feminist. We are a patriarchal society in which women suffer structural discrimination in every sphere of life. We must think and implement every public policy by looking at the world through a gendered dimension that ensures that we write every policy through women's eyes. Overcoming gender inequality in employment requires supporting women's employment, training women and girls in all disciplines against all gender stereotypes, and supporting women's entrepreneurship. The Democratic Party we want is at the forefront of LGBTQIA+ rights. We must continue to fight for a law against homobilesbotransphobia, ableism and sexism, to counter the discrimination and hatred that affects people every day.

Schlein hypothesizes a path that starts precisely from the essential levels of services and arrives at a framework law with Parliament at the center.

On ”ius soli”, Schlein has very clear ideas. She sees citizenship not as a privilege recognized by blood, but rather the sign of belonging to an open, supportive, inclusive democratic community — through the approval of a law on ius soli.



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