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|Creating a Shadow Government|
Corriere della Sera - July 11th 2008
Robert Hughes, the great Australian art critic and essayist, called it “The shock of the new” in his justly celebrated book and television series on twentieth-century art. The phrase applies to politics too, however: in Italy, today, it might be most appropriate for the sensation Walter Veltroni and his Democratic Party are feeling about being the main opposition party in what has suddenly become almost a Westminster-style two party system. The idea of forming a “governo ombra” is both shocking and—apart from the brief experiment in the late 1980s by the old Communist Party (PCI)—new. But Mr Veltroni and the Democratic Party should stick with the idea. It works well in
Those countries are, essentially, those with Westminster-style parliamentary systems in which there are two dominant political parties:
The 2007 Upper House (or Senate) election in
Credibility is the main advantage of forming a shadow government. Opposition parties often struggle to convince voters that they would really be capable of running the country: government ministers dominate the media headlines, for good or bad, and generally only the opposition party leader gets the chance to grab much attention. This is especially a problem when a government survives in office for several years, which is what tends to happen in Britain, where Labour has been in office for 11 years, following 18 years of the Conservative Party; in Australia, where the new Labor government led by Kevin Rudd has followed 11 years of Liberal Party government; and now in Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy.
Having a shadow government, with individual politicians responsible for particular areas of policy, is the only way in which a party that is stuck in opposition for a long time can hope to build up any credibility as an alternative government. It is still difficult: in
One of the big problems of sitting in opposition, especially for long periods, is that political parties tend to contain too many energetic, ambitious, often arrogant people, all of whom have too little work to do. Those, after all, are the qualities necessary to become successful in politics. But those very qualities are what make parties hard to lead.