Italy Election Results: A New Government But For How Long?

Tue, 02/26/2013 - 04:39

The results from the Italian general election have led to a hung parliament. It is likely that the next parliament will be ungovernable and the country will be back at the polls within months.

The left-wing coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani’s Partito Democratico (PD) won the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, with 29.5% of the vote. The right-wing coalition led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom, PdL) into second place with 29.1%. The MoVimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement, M5S) led by Beppe Grillo won 25.5%. In the upper house, the Senate, the left-wing coalition gained 31.6% of the vote, gaining 119 seats. The right-wing coalition won 30,7% and 117 seats. M5S won 23.8% and 54 seats.

In a blow to the mainstream parties, M5S emerges as the largest single party in Italy: it gained the largest number of votes for any party in the lower house, and the second largest number in the upper house. The M5S has not formed a coalition with any other party, unlike the PD and PdL. It also puts the M5S in the position of kingmaker but so far, the movement has resisted forming any alliances given that it stood on a platform to sweep away what its supporters see as cronyism among the mainstream parties. M5S has adopted an anti-corruption stance and in the Sicilian regional government where it has had candidates elected to power, the candidates have voted on an issue-by-issue basis.

The Con Monti per l’Italia (With Monti for Italy) centrist coalition led by outgoing premier Mario Monti garnered only 10.5% of the vote in the lower house and 9.1% and 18 seats in the upper house.

Neither the left nor the right coalitions have a majority in the upper house. Even with the support of Monti’s centrists, neither can reach the required magic number of seats required, 158.

The outcome means that any government is likely to be unstable and there may be another general election soon.

The turnout was 75.41%, which is a historic low and 5.62% less than the turnout for the general election in 2008. The decline in turnout is attributed to bad weather – there was snow in the north and flooding in the south – as well as citizens’ disaffection with a political class that has been besmirched by accusations of corruption in a series of scandals. Also, voters have become disillusioned by government’s failure to address the country’s economic problems including a lack of growth exacerbated by too much red tape, rising unemployment and the recent austerity measures that caused many families across Italy to tighten their belts.

The new government needs to elect a new president to replace Giorgio Napolitano, who was elected in 2006. He is reaching the end of his term so a new president will be elected this year. The media is speculating that the new government may be forced to change the current complex voting legislation before a new election can be called in an attempt to guarantee a more stable government in the future.

Given Monti’s coalition emerged as something of a flop, the question remains whether he would stand in any future election and which party would pick up his small yet vital number of votes. In the light of the possibility of another election there is also speculation in the media that the PD may consider choosing a new leader, possibly the 38-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, who the 61-year-old Bersani beat in the party’s primary race in December 2012.