Where Now For Italy?

borioniKeep calm and accept the basic facts: No matter how much qualitatively better than Berlusconi, no left-wing coalition could ever achieve large majorities and broad popular support after having been part of a Grand Coalition implementing policies such as those contained in Monti’s austerity packages. To be sure, Berlusconi’s coalition was also bitterly defeated: Compared to the result in 2008, almost 8 million voters (more than 15% of the total popular vote) deserted the coalition led by the Milano tycoon. Monti only got a little less than 10%, mostly taken from older moderate parties and thereby politically killing all his allies in the middle of the political spectrum.

Largely perceived as Angela Merkel’s personal representative in Italy, Monti’s looked like a dead project from the very start. If a liberal-conservative party has to effectively compete Berlusconi out of politics, it will have to be far less elitist, and, what’s more, will have to seem far more positive for the countless small and medium enterprises of Italy.

Compared to that, the coalition of the left lost about 5% of the popular vote and little more than 3 million votes. A great and beyond-any-expectation election result was achieved by Beppe Grillo’s 5 Stars Movement: 25% of the popular vote starting from scratch. This protest novelty, a sort of a more angry (and, one may say, therefore more successful) Pirate Party, was expected, albeit not to this extend.

Nonetheless, the  victory goes to the left coalition, getting around 30% of the popular vote. Thanks to a coalition-based majoritarian electoral system Bersani’s left will count on a big majority in the House of Deputies. Because of local technicalities due to the special senate election rules, though, this gives a mere relative majority in the senate: Only 133 seats instead of the needed 158.

What will Bersani decide now? He has repeatedly excluded any possibility for a new Grand Coalition including Berlusconi. The more left leaning side  of the coalition, like the economist Stefano Fassina and the president of the Puglia region Nichi Vendola, seem to suggest negotiating new reforms with the new 5 Stars Movement: A new and more stabilizing electoral system, new cuts for all kinds of public resources funding elected politicians and parties, and, at last, a law effectively forbidding that anyone with Berlusconi’s properties and TV channels will ever lead the country again.

After that, in a year or so, Italy could go to the polls again at the same time as the election for the European Parliament. This is at least a potential scenario, unless Beppe Grillo prefers to push again Berlusconi, the left and Monti together, to play the ‘only real opposition’ strategy.  Or he may try a quick election in order to get all the possible benefits out of this in this historically magic moment.

Needless to say, the  quest for more growth remains absolutely central if a left coalition government is to have any hope to rule a future government or win any future election. On the positive side, the 5 Stars Movement is no fascist political organization: The good news of the election is that no Golden Dwan or Jobbik-like party has emerged. Even the old nostalgic movement of fascist Italy has almost disappeared.

Still, if no economic improvement resulting in jobs and better wages is in sight rather soon, a Weimar Republic scenario, with all traditional and reliable parties simultaneously and repeatedly defeated, is very likely for Italy. Will this ring a bell in Berlin?