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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 26 febbraio 2013 alle ore 16:46.

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57% of Italians voted for parties that explicitly oppose austerity and in a major upset, the Five-Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo – who has called for a referendum on whether the country should leave the single currency – received over 25% of the vote. Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti's list mustered less than 10% of votes in both houses. Although Italians remain pro-EU, this election was a major blow for the Brussels cash-for-austerity consensus, and any plans for structural reform in Italy are likely to be put on ice.

How will the seats be divided?
> The table has a breakdown of seats in the two chambers:

Italy's electoral system gives the coalition or party with the most votes in the Lower House an automatic majority of almost 54%. Bersani's centre-left coalition beat Berlusconi's centre-right coalition to this mark by only around 0.4%. The exact distribution of seats could change as the official, final result is still not in. The breakdown does not include a total of thirteen MPs and 14 Senators who are either elected by Italians residing abroad or in regions following different rules.

Will a stable government be possible and what happens next?
Although Italy has had plenty of unstable governments over the past few decades, this situation whereby it may not be possible to form a new government following an election is new – making the next steps unusually uncertain. In the Italian political system both houses – the Senate and the Lower Chamber – have equal powers, meaning that, usually, a government must enjoy a majority in both to govern effectively and pass laws.

None of the coalition arrangements entered into before the elections will muster a majority in the Italian Senate – prior to the elections, many had hoped that Bersani's coalition could get a majority in the Senate with Mario Monti's support, but the votes did not materialise.

To avoid a situation where Italy is completely ungoverned, there are effectively three alternatives:
- A national unity government, if Bersani, Berlusconi and Monti join forces – could be possible but may not be enough to avoid snap elections (maybe as early as next year). The deal could possibly involve an agreement to change the electoral law to avoid another stalemate;
- Grillo U-turns and agrees to form a coalition with Bersani's centre-left alliance;
- A re-run election (presumably within 3-4 months).

Under scenarios 1 and 3, there will be a lot of pressure to change the electoral law before new elections to avoid a similar stalemate. For that, however, there needs to be a majority in both houses, meaning that we're looking at a potential Catch-22. This morning, there seems to be a consensus emerging among Italian political leaders, that re-run elections must be avoided. Berlusconi said this morning that a new vote "is not useful" at this stage.

This is broadly the timeline:
- 15 March: First seating of the Italian parliament (both chambers).
- By 20 March: The speakers of both chambers should have been elected.
- After 20 March: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano starts official consultations on the formation of the new government. The President usually talks to the leaders of the political groups in the Italian parliament and the speakers of the two chambers. Before that, though, political parties will talk to each other so we may already get a clearer idea (or not) of possible alliances. Bersani is likely to be the first asked to form the new government, as his coalition holds a majority in the lower house.
- 15 April: Procedures for the election of the new Italian President are due to start (unless he decides to step down earlier, see below).
- 15 May: Mandate of Italian President expires.

The ‘institutional traffic jam'
There's another twist to complicate matters further. Before new elections can take place, the Italian President would have to dissolve the new parliament. However, he is not allowed to do so during the last six months of his mandate (the so-called ‘White Semester') – and the mandate of President Giorgio Napolitano expires in May. This is known as the ingorgo istituzionale – ‘the institutional traffic jam'.

So even if coalition talks collapsed and new elections were needed, the new parliament would have to elect the new President first – potentially leading to three to four months of political paralysis. However, the process could be sped up if Napolitano decided to step down earlier.

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