Italy’s Tsipras List: who are the candidates and what do they want to achieve?

Press Conference : "Is austerity the only way out of the crisis? Alternative options for Europe"The ‘Tsipras List’ – officially ‘The Other Europe with Tsipras‘, which was presented on 5 March in Rome, is part of a growing trend of ‘personality-led’ lists of candidates for the European elections.

The List – which is the first confirmed list of candidates for the European Parliament election in Italy – is somewhat unconventional. Like lists in some other countries – such as Poland’s Europa Plus – Your Movement list (which we will look at in more detail in a future post) and France’s ‘Citizens’ Europe’ (led by Corinne Lepage MEP) – the Tsipras List brings together prominent members of civil society, professionals, intellectuals and others, in addition to politicians.

Read our candidates lists for the European Parliament election in Italy

tsiprasOnly a handful of the candidates on the Tsipras List – which will back the Party of the European Left‘s candidate for the Commission presidency, Alexis Tsipras – are members of political parties. Some of the political candidates belong to the Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party, which is not a member of the PEL. Others are members of the radical left Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), a PEL member. But the Party of Italian Communists (PdCI), another PEL member, saw its proposed candidates rejected from the list.

However, the ‘Tsipras List’ catches the eye for the variety of its candidates’ backgrounds. Among the 71 names – almost perfectly gender-balanced – are left-wing intellectuals, professors, and journalists, such as Barbara Spinelli, the daughter of European federalist and former commissioner and MEP Altiero Spinelli. Also present are leaders of anti-globalisation associations – such as the leader of the protests at the 2001 G8 meeting in GenoaLuca Casarini – students, and workers, united by one declared common objective – to change Europe.

But in what way? A first glance at their profiles shows that most candidates want a less ‘privatised’ Europe. Several candidates state that they are ready to defend what they consider ‘common goods': water in particular, but also education and housing. They are willing to push forward a progressive agenda focused on the rights of workers, women, minorities and the LGBT community. Another common point of concern seems to be the preservation of natural resources and sustainable development: many of the candidates have experience in green-left associations, non-governmental organisations, or similar movements.

So far, no candidate has been capable of pushing her or his agenda in parliamentary politics. None has been elected to the Italian Parliament. However, a few have experience in local politics: candidates include a former mayor and former members of municipal executive bodies. Some of them have fought their political battles as members of trade unions, or by being active in NGOs or social movements. Many have been active in organising referenda.

The big question is how many of them will be elected to fight their battles in Brussels and Strasbourg. According to recent polls, The Other Europe with Tsipras will win more than six per cent of the vote, well above the four per cent threshold needed to get in the European Parliament. Barbara Spinelli, who is running in three of Italy’s five constituencies, is likely to be elected (although it remains to be seen whether she would take her seat).

carlo nidasio flickrHowever, a note of caution: in Italy there is a history of overoptimistic forecasts for the Left. In the last European election in Italy, two left-wing groups won around three per cent of the vote each, failing to win any seats.

And there is also a concern among some on the Left that the Tsipras List has further fragmented – rather than united, the Italian Left. The centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which has recently become a full fledged member of the Party of European Socialists (PES), has been occupying most of the political spectrum of what once used to be the Italy’s second-largest party, the Italian Communist Party.

The parties behind the Tsipras list wish to challenge the PD by proposing a more leftist agenda: according to Tsipras, the policies of Matteo Renzi (pictured left) – Prime Minister of Italy and Chairman of the PD – are more aligned with the centre, or even with centre-right politicians such as Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, than the Left. It remains to be seen to what extent this diverse list supporting his candidacy for the Commission presidency will ride a wave of dissatisfaction in Italy and Europe and help Tsipras push for a more radical policy agenda.

Chiara Gaudenzi-Morandi – Burson-Marsteller Brussels