Italy enters in political limbo after vote dominated by fears of migrant invasion
Two populist parties claimed the right to govern, as no one won a working majority, consultations ahead
8 March, 2018
Italian President Sergio Mattarella faces the greatest challenge in his life by deciding whom to give the mandate to form a government after the general election last Sunday left the country in political limbo. No one party or coalition came close to a working majority, as voters were confused among rising fears of migrants and anger about social inequalities.Still, two rival populist parties claimed the victory and the right to govern Italy. Five Star Movement (M5S) won the biggest share of the vote of any single party (32%), and its leader Luigi Di Maio said it had a “responsibility” to form a government. Di Maio called on Italy's other parties to get behind its programme to change Italy and break the political deadlock. The M5S previously refused to talk with other parties, which it considered part of a “corrupt” system.League leader Matteo Salvini also said that he had “the right and the duty” to form a government after its surprise success at the heart of a centre-right coalition, which won roughly 37% of the vote overall. The League, with its 18%, went ahead of former PM Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia (Go Italy) party, which collapsed to 14%. Salvini's party surged in the polls after promising to shut down Roma camps, deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and tackle what it called “danger” of Islam. “Italians have chosen to take back control of the country from the insecurity and precariousness put in place by (centre-left Democratic Party leader Matteo) Renzi,” Salvini said.The M5S gained 221 seats in the lower house Chamber of Deputies and 112 in the upper house Senate. The centre-right coalition obtained 260 in the lower house and 135 in Senate. Some observers put forward the possibility of a cabinet of the two Eurosceptic parties, The League and M5S. However, Salvini swiftly ruled out the prospect of forming a coalition with the M5S. “N. O. No, underlined three times,” he told reporters. Another speculation about divorce between him and Silvio Berlusconi were not yet confirmed. They both said they will go to the consultation with President Mattarella united. Last Wednesday, Berlusconi confirmed that he was backing League leader Matteo Salvini to head the government. Former Italian PM Matteo Renzi resigned last Monday as leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) after a bruising defeat in a national election. “It is obvious that I will leave the helm of the PD,” said Renzi, who quit as PM when Italians voted against him in a 2016 referendum on constitutional reform. Despite his decision to stand aside, he said he expected his party to shun any coalition talks.“The verdict in Italy is always the same: the country is in constant instability,” said Claudio Tito, columnist for La Repubblica. “Being ungovernable has become endemic.”J.P. Morgan economist Marco Protopapa noted that “the results do not leave any room for centrist coalitions (hard to call them grand given the meagre numbers).” BlackRock's Global Chief Investment Strategist Richard Turnill said that League would not like to be a junior partner in any coalition. “We believe it unlikely that M5S will partner with League to form a government,” Turnill said in a note.It will take at least a month, and perhaps a lot more, before Italy gets a new government after Sunday's general election, which failed to produce a clear winner, ANSA reported. The first session of the new parliament should be on 23 March and its first job will be to elect the Speakers of the two chambers, which could take many ballots. Once the speakers have been elected and the parliamentary parties formed, outgoing Premier Paolo Gentiloni will resign and President Sergio Mattarella will start consultations with them on the formation of new government late in March or early in April. After the consultations, Mattarella will decide what to do. He can either give someone a full mandate to form a new government or an exploratory one if it is not clear whether it will be possible to form a majority in parliament.In the meantime, Gentiloni will stay in office for the day-to-day business of government. If the premier designate thinks they have support for an executive, they will present a list of ministers to the president, the cabinet will be sworn in and the new government will be put to confidence votes in the House and Senate. If the premier designate says they cannot form a government, there will be a new round of consultations and a new person will be given a mandate, possibly an impartial technician.
People wait in line to cast their ballot at the polling station in a high school in Rome, 4 March.
Forza Italia's Silvio Berlusconi (L) whipes the forehead of League's Matteo Salvini (R) during a media event ahead of the elections, Rome, 1 March.