Tomorrow the Pd primaries: psychological threshold, fear of flops and costs

On Sunday the gazebos to vote for the new dem secretary, the challenge between Bonaccini and Schlein

Less than 24 hours at primary Pd. Sunday 26 February, from 8.00 to 20.00, gazebos throughout Italy to elect the new dem secretary. The choice is between Stefano Bonaccini and Elly Schlein, who in recent days have also set the bar on participation in the democratic vote: the ‘psychological threshold’ would be at least one million people. But there are different forecasts in the party: in fact, there are those who fear the flop and those who bet that it will not be difficult to exceed one million by making a comparison with the last congress in 2019, when around 190,000 members of club congresses voted and there were 1 million and 600 thousand participants.

Meanwhile the outgoing secretary Enrico Letta prepares to say goodbye. “From Monday I will continue my normal life, as I always have”, the words of the dem leaving the Ukrainian embassy yesterday. “My successor or my successor will be elected on Sunday and I wanted to make this last gesture of mine as secretary of the Democratic Party to testify to the coherence of our line”, said the secretary, who however did not want to go too far in the primaries: “Today we are talking about Ukraine”, the answer.

Definitely a party for democracy. Certainly a remarkable organizational effort, at times unique. Certainly a significant economic commitment and, perhaps, an alternative form of financing the policy. Why the primaries also have an economic aspect. Not so obvious. The gazebos could easily be dismissed as a business, a way to bring a few more euros into the asphyxiated coffers of the parties. But they also have costs which always make it difficult to identify the balance of the operation.

In itself the matter would be simple. For days there has been talk of the turnout for next Sunday’s vote. The threshold for talking about a success, as mentioned, is now set at one million participants. Each voter, according to the regulation, pays 2 euros (except for members). Therefore, at least 2 million euros of ‘collection’ for the dem. Numbers to be verified because those who participate could offer even more. Not to mention the fact if there was a boom in voters, revenues would also grow.

In the absence of official data (there is no primary budget), which are always a bit scarce, you can refer to some past experience to focus on the phenomenon. In 2013, the start of the Renzi era, the then treasurer Francesco Bonifazi spoke of a ‘collection’ of around 4.6 million euros. Another figure is that of the centre-left gazebos in 2012 (the Bersani-Renzi challenge). The then treasurer Antonio Misiani spoke of a “realistic estimate of 8 million” paid.

We speak of another order of magnitude because then there was a double shift, with a turnout of around 3 million each time. But primaries don’t just have the + sign in front of them. The gazebos have a cost, although the organizational machine always counts on a significant number of volunteers (20,000 on the field on Sunday distributed among the 5,500 polling stations). Returning again to Renzi’s primaries, the cost was around 1 million euros. Again Bonifazi underlined that the ‘payers’ were 2 million 300 thousand out of 2 million 800 absolute voters.

The costs for the 2012 center-left primaries were around 1.5 million, but “the figure does not take into account local activities”, underlined the treasurer. In that case, then, costs and benefits had to be ‘spread’ across the whole coalition. The point is that according to the dem statute, the primaries are not an exclusive affair of the Nazarene. The economic contribution of the voters goes, in large part, to the local levels of the party throughout Italy. From this point of view, the then treasurer Mauro Agostini made the most bitter balance at the time of the first primaries.

In those days (2007, Veltroni secretary) turnout was certainly not a problem: 3,554,169 voters, a number that has never been exceeded. The ‘collection’ was around 4 million (a contribution of at least 1 euro was paid). But the organizing committee eventually calculated that the expenses for the primary ones were also at the top, around 3 million. Moral, at the Loft (at the time the headquarters of the Democratic Party was the one in Largo di Santa Anastasia) in the end about 10% of the total remained, between 400 thousand and 500 thousand euros. In the end, (also) there has been no shortage of controversy over the years about money. In 2017 (we are at Renzi’s encore) what caused discussion was the 4 euro donation instead of the 2 euro requested for the electronic vote. Andrea Orlando’s committee protested by speaking of “imposed choices” and “not always transparent behavior”.