Those who wish to understand Italian politics need only watch the American film classic “Groundhog Day“.

The movie stars Bill Murray who portray weatherman Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again.

So it is with Italian politics. Prime minister Matteo Renzi lost a referendum by a much greater than expected margin, resigned, but nothing changed.

Renzi was replaced by Paolo Gentiloni, a technocrat, Italy’s 4th consecutive unelected technocrat, and a virtual clone of Renzi, appointed by Italy’s president.

Renzi did not even leave politics. Rather, he is waiting in the wings, after resigning, hoping to win the next election. Renzi is still the Democrat Party leader.

New Italian PM Wins Confidence Vote

Please consider pertinent snips from the Reuters article New Italian PM Wins First Confidence Vote, Pledges to Support Banks.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won an initial vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday after laying out a limited program for his new government, which might only survive a few months.

Gentiloni has taken over from former premier Matteo Renzi, who resigned last week after Italians rejected his proposed reform of the constitution in a referendum.

To take office, he needs to win votes of confidence in both houses of parliament and easily won the first in the lower chamber by 368 to 105.

Many opposition lawmakers did not take part in the ballot, in protest at the fact that Gentiloni had re-appointed almost all the ministers who served under Renzi.

Gentiloni faces a more difficult vote in the upper house Senate on Wednesday, where his majority is likely to be much smaller following a decision by a former Renzi ally not to support the new administration.

He is widely expected to scrape through, but his limited support underscores the low expectations for this government, with many politicians predicting national elections in the first half of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

Foreign minister in the previous government, Gentiloni has defended his decision to bring most of his old colleagues with him in the new cabinet, including Renzi’s two closest allies – Maria Elena Boschi and Luca Lotti – saying he had to act quickly to prevent instability.

The main opposition parties, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the right-wing Northern League, have both promised street demonstrations in the coming weeks to denounce the new executive, which they have dismissed as a “photocopy”.

“They are digging their grave with their own hands,” said Luigi Di Maio, a 5-Star deputy widely expected to be the party’s candidate for prime minister at the next election.

Pretending Nothing Happened

The latest issue of Eurointelligence (subscription) by Wolfgang Münchau sums up the situation accurately.

Münchau says the election is like “Pretending Nothing Happened“.

These are not the headlines a new government wants to read: “Gentiloni, governo fotocopia” [Gentiloni Photocopy Government] was La Republicca’s this morning, and it says it all. So does the front page cartoon in Corriere della Sera, showing President Sergio Mattarella going through the list of ministers and proclaiming that the name of Matteo Renzi was missing. In all other respects it is the same government, slightly reshuffled.

We are going to say this outright: Gentiloni is a weak transitional leader. And there is already ample evidence of this. When asked about his “photocopy government” he said that, if he had tried to do more, the government would not have been ready in time for the European Council on Thursday. Gentiloni also said that he would not oppose Renzi’s ambition to have elections by the summer, hoping that Renzi would not criticise him too severely – although he said he would fully understand if he does. One does not get the sense that Gentiloni is his own man.

Renzi, meanwhile, expects to have elections by the summer with a proportional voting system, the idea being to prevent the Five Star Movement from forming a government coalition. As we have written before, no electoral law can ultimately overcome the Italian electorate’s disillusionment with the traditional parties, and this pathetic ministerial reshuffle will only strengthen that disillusionment.

I call this “Groundhog Day, Italian Style.

I do not always agree with Münchau, in fact I disagree with him philosophically on most things.

However, I salute Münchau for not letting his personal opinions get in the way of what’s actually happening, and what he expects to happen.

Münchau writes an excellent column every day.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock