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The Italian elections have come and gone, and still there is no real government or solution to Italy’s problems. No group can agree on the formation of a government – Comedian Beppe Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement), despite winning 25% of the vote, has refused to take any part in the formation of a new government, in line with his anti-Political stance, which leaves the centre-Right coalition under Silvio Berlusconi’s Popolo di Libertà (Freedom People) or the Centre-Left coalition led by Pier-Luigi Bersani of the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) to form a government. The Far Left have ruled out supporting a grand coalition with Berlusconi’s party, and former technocratic Prime Minister Mario Monti is left almost powerless after his Centrist bloc received only 10% of the vote.
Amongst all of this damage, the Italian stock market has been deeply affected, which has knock-on effects to the rest of the Eurozone due to the single currency. The Italian political situation is toxic for the rest of the European Union, and could have dire consequences for a Europe that is still being hit hard by the Euro Crisis. The fact that all of these Italian politicians are essentially playing chicken with the future of the European economy in the name of political interest is irresponsible and could have far-reaching consequences.
However, it isn’t hard to understand why this struggle is being fought. Italy has been struggling under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi, who, surprisingly, still retains quite a large amount of popular support in Italy. International mistrust in Berlusconi’s ability to combat the Italian debt crisis is one of the reasons for Italy’s current predicament, and it is understandable that the Left would be reluctant to include him as part of a government despite the high proportion of votes that he received. Furthermore, Berlusconi has almost constantly been on trial throughout his period of government, once even attempting to pass laws that would make him immune to prosecution while serving as Prime Minister. He has recently been sentenced to 1 year of jail for publication of wiretapped conversations, although his advanced age means that his sentence will likely never be carried out.
Furthermore, it is hard not to sympathise with the Movimento 5 Stelle, an anti-Political movement that began as a protest vote but has developed into a strong force in Italian politics, moderately eurosceptic, and the only real voice for change in a stagnant political situation. His platform is based on wealth redistribution, attacking privilege and increasing public control of public services while cutting defence spending, and in particular cleaning up Italy’s political system, widely regarded as being corrupt and unchanging. The current political parties have greatly benefited under the former political status quo, and Grillo’s new movement is finally attempting to tap into the mistrust and frustration that the Italian people have with their political system. However, individual members of the movement have cast doubt on their actual ability to govern, for example MP Roberta Lombardi’s praise for fascism’s ‘family values’.
No-one can really be sure about what will break Italy’s electoral deadlock. A lack of trust in Italy’s ability to govern itself means that a new government must be able to distance itself from the past, taking cues from the Movimento 5 Stelle. However, the movement itself may not be the best choice for the future of Italy. Whether a minority government is formed, such as that suggested by Pier Luigi Bersani, or if Italy will be required to go to the polls once again is yet to be seen. A lot is riding on the results of these Italian elections, both in Italy’s own political system and in a wider European context.