A True Political Revolt In Italy? Start With A Woman Prime Minister

Electing a first-ever prime minister could resolve the current Italian post-election impasse, and send a message abroad.

Torn election posters in Naples on March 2
Torn election posters in Naples on March 2
Maurizio Molinari


TURIN, ITALY — After the March 4 election indicated a strong desire for change and renewal of the Italian political class, the time has come for Italy to nominate a woman as prime minister for the first time in its history. More than half of Italian voters opted for anti-establishment parties, and regardless of the outcome of the fraught negotiations set to begin this week, electing Italy's first-ever female prime minister would indisputably be a strategic choice.

The appointment of a woman to Italy's highest political office is clearly in the national interest, for three converging reasons. First, such a move would speak to the enthusiasm of voters who took to polling stations en masse to defeat the country's traditional parties. While these citizens are united in their desire for a new government that breaks with the past, they are divided by the ideological and geographic differences that separate the parties they support.

There is no shortage of qualified candidates.

Italy is mired in a political impasse that threatens to generate further discontent if it continues unabated. The country needs a uniting element to harness and maintain the enthusiasm of voters, regardless of which party wins the post of prime minister — and there is no better choice than elevating the first woman to lead Italy since the foundation of the republic in 1946. This could channel that disruptive enthusiasm into support for the new government, strengthening the credibility of Italy's institutions at a time when they are under constant attack from anti-establishment forces.

Most importantly, there is no shortage of qualified candidates for the job. The newly elected legislature boasts the highest number of elected female representatives in Italian history, and there are several high-profile women within each of Italy's main parties who could easily stake a claim to the position of prime minister. There are even more qualified women across the Italian private sector and public administration, from the justice system to the national security apparatus.

With a woman at the helm, Italy could place itself at the forefront of the fight for gender equality and the battle against gender violence and abuse. The #MeToo movement in the United States, which was sparked by the Harvey Weinstein case and saw many women come forward to publicly denounce the abuse and violence they've experienced in their lives, provides an extraordinary opportunity for all advanced democracies. Institutions in democratic countries must respond by proving to women that they will guarantee their rights are upheld. What better way for Italy to prove that than by shattering a 71-year taboo on the appointment of a woman to the highest political office in the land?

Delaying gender parity has serious consequences for economic growth.

Several studies conducted by researchers in Italy and around the world have demonstrated that delaying gender parity has serious consequences for economic growth. Electing Italy's first-ever female prime minister would be a watershed moment, spurring a push for a greater role for women across Italian society. A woman would be the best choice to lead the country's fight against its Achilles heel of enduring economic inequality, bringing hope to Italian children growing up with bleak prospects of achieving their dreams.

The appointment would also hold strategic value for Western democracies more broadly in the ongoing battle against jihadist terrorists, who are driven by an ideology that actively persecutes and subdues women. Choosing a woman to lead Italy would send a clear signal of Italian soft power in the Mediterranean region.

There are many reasons to elect a woman as Italy's next prime minister, from the importance of rewarding the enthusiasm of Italian voters who spurned the establishment to the necessity of fighting gender-related violence and promoting women's rights around the world. Now it's up to the country's divided political parties to rise to the challenge and name the candidate, whoever she may be.

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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