Italian elections: “New government with Five Star Movement likely”

The parliamentary elections in Italy on Sunday, with a turnout of 73 %, resulted in a rise in Eurosceptic, populist, anti-immigration and even pro-Russian parties which received more than half of the vote. After almost all votes have been counted, the populist Five Star Movement became the biggest party with 33 % of the votes, followed by the governing centre-left Democratic Party (19 %), the far-right League (formerly Northern League, 17 %), and the centre-right Forza d’Italia (14 %).

According to Italian election rules, a party or coalition would need 40 % of the votes to form a majority government.

As no party or coalition won enough votes to form a government, EU might have to be prepared for what European Commission president Juncker before the elections described as the “worst scenario”, an unstable government.

At yesterday’s press briefing, a spokesperson for the Commission declined to comment on the election results and their implications for the rest of Europe, at least as long as the results weren’t final. There was no winner to congratulate.

The Brussels Times asked Italian law professor and social activist Alberto Alemanno for his view on the election results and the task of forming a new government. He was himself running as  lead candidate for the newly formed Più Europa party (More Europe).

His party gained only 2.5 % of the votes and lost its few seats in the parliament. “We are deeply disappointed about the low score in Italy but delighted about the success we had among Italian residents across Europe,” he replies.

“When one Italian out of two supports anti-establishment and Eurosceptic parties, something serious must have happened in the country for some time,” Alemanno summarizes.

“Italians unequivocally sought to disrupt a political system that they perceive as self-serving and out-of-touch with their daily realities. As a result, Italy might witness the first Eurosceptic government in history.”

Did the Italians vote for or against something?

“After decades of economic stagnation, growing inequalities and migration-based concerns – which were grossly amplified by the media – Italians turned their back to mainstream political forces and opted instead for two anti-establishment yet very different parties – the Five Star Movement and the League,” he replies.  

“The League is by far the most influential political force in the north, while the Five Star Movement has won virtually every constituency in the south. Together they have more than 50% of the proportional vote.”

The election results have been interpreted as an alarm signal for EU but Alemanno is cautious in generalizing the results. “The Five Star Movement is a unique Italian creation.” He is confident that the Movement could mature into a responsible reformist party capable to interacting with the EU. 

“The Five Star Movement could mitigate the worst populism underpinning the League’s message and other nationalistic groups. Despite its dogmatic ‘direct democracy’ credo, the movement represents the only fresh attempt at drawing citizens into politics by lowering the entry barriers and asking the right questions.”

He thinks that Italy’s president is likely to entrust the task to form a new government to the Five Star Movement that will then have to find allies supporting it to achieve a majority. This may take weeks but it doesn’t seem as mission impossible, according to Alemanno. 

But it remains to be seen if the lead candidate of the Five Star Movement, the only 31-year old Luigi Di Maio who lacks any professional experience, can form a stable government with Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, whom Alemanno describes as the Viktor Orbán (Hungary’s prime-minister) of Italian politics.

The Brussels Times

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