March 5, 2018 / 3:13 PM / 10 months ago

Italy's inconclusive vote opens way for 5-Star, far right

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s inconclusive parliamentary election leaves open a wide range of possible alliances, putting the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in the drivers’ seat as the largest party.

The election is a political sea change for Italy, with voters shunning the parties that have governed the country in recent years, including the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!).

The actual seats in parliament have yet to be assigned, but partial results show 5-Star emerged as by far the biggest party with about 32 percent of the national vote.

Italy has a long history of finding a way out of political stalemates. It will be up to President Sergio Mattarella to guide talks and name a potential prime minister, but that will not happen at least until April.

Here are some of the possible scenarios:


The solution feared most by markets is a marriage between 5-Star and the far-right League. Projections based on results show the two would have a parliamentary majority and there are wide overlaps in their manifestos, with both calling for greater spending on welfare, a rejection of EU deficit rules and a crackdown on illegal immigration. They both used to call for Italy to quit the euro, but while 5-Star says the moment has now passed, the League says it still wants to leave the single currency at the first politically feasible moment. League leader Matteo Salvini last year said he was open to hooking up with 5-Star, but has since said he will not abandon his rightist bloc.


Five-Star’s seats in combination with the PD, perhaps with extra support by the far-left Free and Equal party, is another possibility. While more reassuring for the markets, the PD, which has governed since 2013, has been the main target of 5-Star’s vitriol. The movement has accused the PD of mismanaging the economy, and characterised its members as inherently corrupt. In the immediate aftermath of the vote, they still seem incompatible and the PD has said it plans to be in opposition.


On Monday, Salvini said the centre-right would seek to govern, claiming leadership of the bloc that Silvio Berlusconi has steered since 1994. The centre-right drew about 37 percent of the vote promising to loosen the state’s purse strings by passing a “flat tax” of 23 percent for all households. But the centre-right would need practically the whole of the PD to swing to their side in order to have a majority in parliament, making this option unlikely.


The idea of 5-Star, the PD and the main centre-right parties all joining together in the best interest of the country is another option. This would give 5-Star, as the biggest party, a major role in government, with all parties agreeing before its formation what the government should do while in power. The lifespan of such an administration would likely be about a year. Even during the campaign, 5-Star appeared open to such a solution in the case of electoral deadlock, as long as others accepted the 5-Star conditions.


President Mattarella is the man pulling the strings in the post-vote period. He will choose someone to try to form a government as he cajoles former rivals to get over the rancour of the campaign. If he should fail, he may have no choice but to dissolve parliament and repeat the vote, but that is the option Mattarella most wants to avoid, sources told Reuters before the election.

Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Catherine Evans

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