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HASHTAG POLITICS

#win! Matteo Renzi’s first year as Italy’s prime minister was great—on Twitter

Renzi and twitter
AP Photo/Palazzo Chigi press office, HO
Put a hashtag on it.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

It’s been a year since Matteo Renzi, the former mayor of Florence, became Italy’s youngest prime minister. The ambitious politician, then just 39, started promised a reform measure every month.He had a 100-day plan, and a 1,000-day plan.

The sheer ambition of Renzi’s pronouncements reminded many of the early days of Silvio Berlusconi’s political career, when he promised Italians a million new jobs. Renzi’s communications style, full of slogan, bears traces of his previous career in marketing.

A look back over his first year in office suggests many of Renzi’s stated goals were unrealistic. As the fact checkers of the Italian site Valigia Blu (link in Italian) show, he’s achieved only about a quarter of what he had promised in the timeline he set.

But Renzi, like most politicians, tends to focus on his successes rather than on setbacks. This is especially apparent on Twitter, his preferred means of communications, where his hashtags have become the leitmotif of his governing style.

Renzi hash-tagged his reforms #jobsact, #labuonascuola (the good school) and his 1,000-day timeline (#millegiorni), using them to repeat the slogans of his election campaign. And he’s kept up an stream of tweets since being sworn in.

Here are some highlights of his Twitter hashtag choices:

#enricostaisereno

The hashtag that started it all was #enricostaisereno (be serene, Enrico). Directed at his predecessor Enrico Letta, it was a show of support from Renzi, then newly elected secretary of the Democratic Party. Renzi did not use the hashtag himself, but effectively launched it during a TV interview on Jan. 17, 2014, asking people to tweet out their support to the then premier:

“Lanciamo l’hastag . Vai avanti con il tuo lavoro” (“Let’s launch the hashtag #. Go ahead with your work”)

Within a month of this public display of support, Letta was pushed to resign and Renzi took his place. The hashtag was quickly turned into a sarcastic reminder of Renzi’s about-face.

#lavoltabuona

Renzi is quick to trumpet his successes, using the hashtag: #lavoltabuona (the right time). Just yesterday, after getting the parliament final approval on his Jobs Act, he used it to announce it on Twitter:

He first used the hashtag a year ago, announcing his arrival (slightly delayed) to meet with the then president Giorgio Napolitano:

A variation on the theme is the #laSvoltabuona (“the right turn”).

#Italiariparte

It means Italy restarts: Renzi has often spoken of his country as being stuck in the mud, and has promised his government would get Italy going again.

#cambiaverso

This hashtag (changing direction) was part of his campaign to become secretary of the party. When Renzi became prime minister, it evolved into a triumphant declaration of rottamare (scrapping) the old political class.

#passodopopasso

A somewhat humbler hashtag, #passodopopasso (step by step) is used to mark smaller achievements—with the implication that something bigger is afoot In the example below, Renzi announces that bank account number can now be transferred from a bank to another as “a small gesture towards consumers:”

#unoxuno

This hashtag, which means “one by one,” first features in Renzi’s letter to voters ahead of the European elections (where his party got over 40% votes). In it, the prime minister called on Italians to reclaim “good politics,” “hope,” “faith.” Unlike the other hashtags dedicated to the government’s accomplishments, this is a call to voters—one by one.

These hashtags have punctuated Italy’s political year, and are essentially a variation of the same message of change, hope, and success. If his performance as prime minister has been mixed, Renzi’s Twitter game has been consistently strong.

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