Italy yesterday went to the polls to choose over 900 members of its two houses of parliament. Former prime minsters Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Renzi were the big losers as voters opted for anti-establishment parties
The two houses are essentially equally powerful; the approval of both is needed to form a government, for instance. Since no coalition has a majority in either, deals need to be struck if a new election is to be avoided. Seats are awarded by a complex system involving both direct constituencies and proportional representation.
The main alliances are made up of several parties; in the case of the centre-right alliance they cover a broad part of the political spectrum: Forza Italia, a fairly traditional centre-right party, was overtaken by Lega, former northern secessionists now more broadly nationalist, while Fratelli d’Italia, a radical right party, also gained share. The strength of the elements within the alliance may affect what deals can be struck in forming a government.
Who are the winners and losers, and what happens next?
The Democratic party was expecting to do badly, but senior figures admit this is worse even than they feared. Renzi’s career has taken another severe knock.
Although part of the biggest coalition, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia is not the biggest party within the alliance. That leaves the former prime minister – who is barred from office – short of the electoral authority he needs if he is to act as an eminence grise in the formation of a new government.
Luigi di Maio
Five Star Movement
Despite their protestations, the Five Star Movement did well even in the first-past-the-post seats which are new in this election. As the second force in parliament they could be instrumental in the formation of a government. But to do that they need to set aside their anti-politics stance and do some deals.
Until recently, Lega was – by design – a strictly regional force. A strong nationwide vote has made it unexpectedly the senior partner in the right-wing coalition, strengthening Salvini’s hand in government negotiations.
Regional and demographic trends
Which parties could make up a coalition government?
Several permutations are mathematically possible, but none appear politically easy. Jon Henley explains
Preliminary results from Italy’s general election show the country split three ways. None of the three factions – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the anti-immigration the League; a centre-left coalition headed by Matteo Renzi; and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) – look likely to have enough seats to govern alone, and no government is possible without the support of either the League or M5S.
Some kind of coalition will therefore be necessary for a majority in Italy’s 630-seat parliament. Several permutations are mathematically possible, though none appear politically easy:
- Populist and far right: Five Star Movement and the League
Projections have M5S as by far the largest single partywith 231 seats and the League on 123, giving this potential alliance – which would send shockwaves through the EU – a total of 354. Having long rejected all talk of any power sharing, M5S now says it is willing to at least talk about common policies. “We will discuss with all other parties,” its leader, Luigi di Maio, said, adding that the party has “a responsibility to govern”. Many analysts believe the leftwing of M5S would revolt were there a hookup with the League.
- Populist, rightwing, far right: M5S, Forza Italia, the League
This combination would have a total of 453 seats, 99 of which would be occupied by from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. All three parties initially ruled out alternative post-election pacts, but with Forza Italia on course to win fewer seats than the League, a senior official from the latter, Claudio Borghi, has suggested a rightwing alliance headed by his party’s leader, Matteo Salvini, could find an accord with M5S. Salvini appears to have ruled this out, saying he is “committed” to his alliance with Forza Italia, but has stressed the League has “a right and a duty” to govern.
- Rightwing and centre left: Forza Italia, the League, the Democratic party
A grand coalition would have a projected 327 seats in parliament, 222 from the rightwing parties and 105 from the Democrats, but bring together some highly unlikely bedfellows in the pro-European centre left and the anti-immigration, EU-critical League. As such, it is seen as highly unlikely. A senior Democratic party official, Ettore Rosato, has said that if results stay as they are, “for us it is a clear defeat and we will move into opposition”.
- Populist and centre left: Five Star Movement and the Democratic party
This option, with 336 parliamentary seats, also looks difficult to achieve politically. Matteo Ricci, a former Democratic party vice-president, has said there is “no chance” of it helping the M5S form a government. “The only ally with whom the M5S can form a government is Matteo Salvini , that’s the only option for them,” he said.
- Fresh elections
If there is no clear majority, the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, could choose to leave the current centre-left government of Paolo Gentiloni in place, allowing time to set up a temporary government to organise new elections. That process could only start after parliament meets for the first time on 23 March.