Italy not sure what to do with its clowns

On February 24 and 25, Italy was at a crossroads but the election results did not set a future direction for the country. The Italian population expected everything but not that its nation would be rendered ungovernable.

If there is a winner in the 2013 election it is Beppe Grillo. For the rest, just one word: ungovernable. The Five-Star Movement (M5S), final data in hand, is the largest party in the Chamber of Deputies where it won 25.55 per cent of the vote, beating both the centre-left coalition PD (25.41per cent), and the centre-right coalition PDL (21.56 per cent).

Mr Grillo’s movement stands out even in the Senate where the Democratic Party won the largest vote (27.43 per cent), but is closely followed by the “grillini” with 23.79 per cent.

But the scenario is further complicated at the national level: the centre-left’s PD secured a majority in the Chamber of Deputies with 29.54 per cent against 29.18 per cent for the centre-right’s PDL. The difference is negligible: just 0.36 per cent (124,407 votes) but enough to award a narrow majority.  The final seats for the Chamber shows a win of 340 seats for PD, 124 for PDL, 108 for Grillo’s M5S, followed by the Scelta Civica of Monti with 37 seats ((8.30 per cent of the vote)).

The Senate, on the other hand, is paralysed. The coalition of Pierluigi Bersani (PD) secured a majority at a national level with 31.63 per cent against 30.72 per cent for the PDL, but lost ground in the key regions in a head-to-head challenge. The centre-left won 113 seats, the centre-right 116, Grillo’s M5S won 54 and the Scelta Civica of Monti won just 18.

So not a clear result at all. The centre-left coalition came out with a slightly higher percentage of the vote but not enough to form a government.

In this election, the real winner is the five-star movement born three years ago from Beppe Grillo’s conviction that Italians were thoroughly fed up with the ‘old way’ of doing politics. It has attracted more than 25 per cent of the vote, and the newly-elected “grillini” are certainly the new faces of Italian politics, ‘personalising the new way’.

Many young people voted for them as a protest against the long-standing party inertia and the discrediting of the political class whose size had not been assessed inside or outside Italy.

But the rise of M5S also points to some controversial problems. If a quarter of the voting population saw his party as a real alternative in the hope it would bring a new wave of change, the rest of the country remains sceptical about committing their future to a comedian-turned-politician.

Populism and hero worship is blamed for the popularity of politicians such as Grillo and Berlusconi.

The situation is now critical and Italy is still at a crossroads. Right now none of the coalitions are able to govern, there are no numbers for a solid majority and all the possible scenarios are very different. To stem the negative impact both on the economic markets and European and international public opinion, the parties need to reach an agreement.

There are four different options available:

Governissimo: to create a government from a wide coalition made up of both PD and PDL (right and left parties together). It goes without saying that this is highly improbable.

Technical government: to find a new group of experts that will be temporarily in charge but the difficulty here is to gain the confidence of both chambers.

Esecutivi balneari, an executive government based on objectives, a system already used in 1960 and in 1987, designated to institute four to five reforms and oversee the country until the next election to be held within six months.

Modello Sicilia, another form of executive government where Grillo’s M5S in the Senate will ‘step-by-step’ support a centre-left PD government.

The laborious back and forth will hopefully soon break the political deadlock.

Europe could not help expressing its dismay at the inconclusive results. The Economist cover loudly declared ‘Send in the clowns’ and Germany’s Social Democrat leader Peer Steinbrueck said he was “appalled that two clowns have won the election”, referring to Silvio Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano defended the dignity of Italy’s political institutions by cancelling a dinner with the German opposition’s chancellor candidate who replied that he “understood Napolitano’s domestic political reasons for cancelling”.

But luckily Italian democracy’s future is not solely in the hand of the markets, the European Union or editorial writers of international newspapers. Whether they have elected ‘clowns’ or not, the citizens have finally spoken and Italy’s politicians need to listen.

The current economic and social situation calls into question the role and past conduct of the Italian political system and now demands a reasonable, pragmatic and reliable plan of action from a credible government.

The question is will Italians be able to admit their flaws, step back and roll up their sleeves for the common good to save this marvellous country?

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *