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The Authentic Interpretation

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The Italian Government has made an important contribution to the field of jurisprudence, by emanating a decree that aims to clarify how the law is to be interpreted. That is correct: as the Home Secretary, Roberto Maroni, explained last night, the Government has not changed any law but simply specified how the law is to be interpreted. This follows a typically Italian mess in the build-up towards the regional elections, to be held in Italy at the end of March. In two regions, Lazio and Lombardia, the PDL (the Party actually in charge of the Government) did not present the official lists of candidates within the official deadline. In the case of Lazio, the list led by Renata Polverini simply missed the deadline because the person in charge went for lunch. In the case of Roberto Formigoni, in Lombardia, the list contained names of dead people, illegible names, and was missing official stamps. This is Renata Polverini:

And this is Formigoni:


Missing ther deadline for lst submision meant the PDL was excluded from particiating in the elections both in Lazio and Lombarida. The Prime Minister was not happy. Neither were lots of the candidates in his Party’s list, whose hopes of a (quite likely) electoral success were suddenly quashed. Among them, Nicole Minetti, the dentist who took care of Silvio Berlusconi’s face after the famous attack in Milan last December. She was ready to join Berlusconi’s Government, and was now disappointed at her quashed political aspirations, as the CosmeticDentistryGuide explains.
A long debate followed in Italy in the past days. It appeared clear that the exclusion of the PDL from the elections in two of Italy’s most important regions was unacceptable. The anger of the PM towards his Party’s inefficiency soon turned into something else, and a new interpreattion of what was happening cameto light: once again, the communists were trying to block the PM’s party from governing. Though polls at the moment say that the Government’s approval ratings are wavering, it also seems unlikely that the actual opposition Party could get voters’ support. A clear emergency occurred, and the Government –as usual- responded to it promptly.
So, they created –almost overnight- a decree meant “to defend the rules of democracy and guarantee the right of active and passive electorate”. I have to admit: I tried to understand what active/passive electorate is. Can anyone who happens to read this please explain it to me?

Maroni clarified what the decree’s aims are: “We did not change the electoral rules (which is always good to know, given the elections are in 3 weeks – thank you, Roberto). The current laws have not been modified, but what it has been offered through the decree is an authentic interpretation” of them. Basically, the Government has told the judges what to do. One could ask “What is the point of having judges then?” It seems that the Government makes the law, and also says how it has to be interpreted. That’s it. A fuller account of the story, and of the polemics it has generated, can be found here, and here.

Without asking other questions, I  want to quote a couple of passages from the decree. The translation is sometimes literal, sometimes not, but I promise it is faithful. The official document (in Italian) can be found on

1.    “When the law says that the lists have to be handed in at time X on day Y, that does not mean that the lists have to be handed by time X on day Y. What it means is that the persons in charge of handing in the lists enter the area of the office for lists submission, having the lists with them, by time X on day Y. Their presence in the building can be assessed by any appropriate means.”

My interpretation: This means that if you go out for lunch without handing in the lists, you’ve met the deadline anyway. The word deadline, we all agree, can be very deceptive, so it’s good this decree made things clearer.

2.    “The signatures on the list are considered valid even if they are not fully authentic, insofar as their validity overall can be deduced by other elements within the documentation provided. In particular, the authenticity of the signatures is not compromised by a merely formal irregularity, such as the absence or non-readability of the authenticating stamp, or of the specification of where the authentication was made, or of an indication of what qualifies the authenticator to authenticate, insofar as s/he has been authorized. (My emphasis).”

My interpretation: the fact that the names on your list cannot be read does not mean you do not have a list. The fact that where you say “Mario Bianchi” there appears to be a stain does not make that name on your list invalid. The fact that no one has recognized your list as valid does not mean it is not valid. Your accidental spilling coffee over the paper which makes anything unreadable is not necessarily a reason against accepting that piece of paper as a valid list. At the end of the day, it is just an election, for God’s sake! Shut up and bring me another coffee.

3.    This applies also to the next regional elections.

Comments are very welcome.