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2018 Italian Elections: The fight for transparency starts with a white bracelet!

Giulio Carini|

Italians headed to the polls last week to elect what one hopes is the country’s 65th government since World War II. No single party won a majority to form a government, and there is still uncertainty about whether parties will group together to form a coalition government, or if Italy will be left again in the hands of a caretaker government. What is certain, however, is that fundamental information about candidates in many cases was hidden from voters.

Italian voters don’t have access to background information regarding political candidates. This is because Italy doesn’t currently have a law which guarantees that candidates present themselves transparently, and it’s often difficult to find basic information about candidates – including what jobs they’ve had or who finances them.

To make an informed choice about who to vote for, Riparte il futuro – an Italian campaigning organisation that fights corruption in Italy and the EU, with an online community of over one million people – believes citizens need to know basic information about their candidates, such as their CVs, potential conflicts of interest, criminal records, tax returns, and political donations.

This is why we started our campaign and online platform Transparent Candidates, where we asked candidates in last week’s election to voluntarily disclose the above information and, if elected, push the Italian parliament to make these disclosures mandatory in future elections in their first 100 days in office. The platform also allowed our community to invite candidates to join the campaign and disclose relevant information. The campaign was supported by over 50,000 people through our petition and over 400 candidates voluntarily disclosed the information we requested.

In Italy, the campaign is doubly important because it not only ensures that voters make informed decisions about their candidates, but also encourages candidates and political parties to commit to a culture of transparency and accountability, and guarantees that parties follow the law by not choosing ineligible candidates. Italian law bans convicted felons who have received a sentence of over two years from running for political office for at least six years. Parties are therefore banned from presenting candidates with criminal convictions, such as former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was convicted of tax fraud in 2013.

By disclosing information, including criminal convictions, the platform can help political parties identify those candidates who are or could be ineligible from holding office and avoid their having to publicly kick out candidates who are later found to have committed felonies. When candidates signed up to our platform they received a white bracelet as symbol to their constituency that they were running an open, clean, and transparent political campaign.

Of those candidates who received a white bracelet after disclosing their CVs, tax returns, criminal records, conflicts of interests, and political donations, 113 were elected on March 4th. These include Luigi Di Maio, Giorgia Meloni, and Pietro Grasso, the leaders of the Five Star Movement, Brothers of Italy, and Free and Equal parties, respectively. The parties with the highest number of elected candidates who disclosed information via our platform included 70 elected representatives from the Five Star Movement, 28 from the Democratic Party, and 10 from Free and Equal.

Many of those elected, however, have not been transparent, and we do not know about their conflicts of interest or by whom they are financed. We want candidates to disclose this type of information in any future local or national election, and be held accountable if they do not participate or provide false information. Riparte il futuro will keep on campaigning for a law that ensures all candidates have to be transparent during elections, and we hope those who won last Sunday, especially those with the white bracelet, will do the same!

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