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Italian elections 2018 – political outlook

Italian elections 2018 – political outlook

Mariella Palazzolo from Fipra Italy shared a report on the outcome of 04 March’s Italian general elections.

 

 

 

 

In line with expectation:

  • The centre-right (Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia liberals, Matteo Salvini’s Lega anti-euro sovereigntists, right-wing Fratelli d’Italia and minor centrist allies Noi con l’Italia) was the most voted coalition, with approx. 37% of popular votes, in line with polls’ predictions
  • Anti-system 5 Star Movement (5SM) was the single most voted party.

Contrary to what polls had predicted, however:

  • Lega was the single most-voted party within the centre-right coalition with over 17% of votes, while Forza Italia did not go beyond 14%
  • PD underperformed expectations, recording an all-time low of less than 19%Contrary to what polls had predicted, however:
  • PD’s failure went to the benefit of 5SM, which hit an all-time high of 32%.

Parties’ nation-wide performance had a domino effect in single-member districts, where 1/3 of both the Houses’ seats were awarded – the remainders being proportionally distributed among parties hitting 3%.

  • The centre-right, pulled by Lega, won nearly all districts in Northern Italy. Lega’s performance allowed centre-right candidates to win several districts in the traditionally “red” Regions at the expense of PD
  • The 5SM completely outperformed expectations in the South, due to PD’s very poor result and Forza Italia’s lower than expected performance.

The centre-right coalition has the highest number of seats, but it falls 50 MPs and 21 Senators short of a majority in Parliament. The same goes for the 5SM, which is 90 MPs and 46 Senators far from a majority.
This means that from an arithmetical viewpoint, the control of Parliament can only be achieved through a compromise agreement between parties that have not run together at general elections.
The election of the 2 Houses of Parliament’s chairs, starting on 23 March, will give a first indication to the President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella of parties’ availabilities to reach such an agreement, as long as:

  • In the Lower House, a 2/3 majority is needed in the first 3 ballots and an absolute majority from the 4th one in the
  • In the Senate, a run-off vote between the 2 most-voted Senators is held after the 3rd inconclusive ballot.

In both the cases, an agreement between 2 of the 3 main blocks (centre-right, 5SM and centre-left) will be needed.
Mattarella’s talks with the parliamentary groups to understand their attitude towards building up a parliamentary majority will start on 29 March. On that occasion, answers will be given to:

  1. Whether all centre-right parties support Matteo Salvini as Prime Minister. Lega has the largest parliamentary groups within the coalition, but so far Silvio Berlusconi has referred to Salvini as the new coalition’s leader, but this is not saying that he is the coalition’s PM candidate;
  2. Whether other parties are available to back a centre-right, Salvini-chaired cabinet and allow it winning a confidence vote in Parliamen Salvini would need his entire coalition plus a too conspicuous number of MPs and Senators to only look at turncoats.
    *   5SM would never join a coalition with Forza Italia and would never back Salvini as PM
    *   PD seems unlikely to support Salvini, mainly in the light of his stances on the Euro. After such a dramatic defeat, however, PD might split and part of its parliamentarians might shift their allegiance and side with the centre-right;
  3. Whether the 5SM is available to consider a coalition agreement with other parties, particularly with PD. So far, 5SM leader and PM candidate, Luigi Di Maio has maintained that he will ask PD and Liberi e Uguali to grant external support to his own cabinet – i.e. helping it winning the initial confidence vote in Parliament, without having Ministers appointed in the cabinet and then reaching an agreement on individual pieces of legislation on a case-by-case basis.
    *   Should Di Maio instead accept to open negotiations with PD on a proper large-coalition cabinet (with a shared policy agenda and a shared cabinet team), this would make an agreement with 5SM much more palatable to PD.
  4. Whether PD is willing to support Di Maio as a junior partner. The party leader, Matteo Renzi, said he is not available, but many senior party leaders have already declared in public they disagree and would instead consider granting at least external support to a Di Maio government. Renzi has announced he intends to resign from party leader, but to remain in charge until a new cabinet is in place, thus steering PD’s position during presidential consultations. Renzi’s ability to impose his views on a reluctant party will be key. Factional struggle within PD may be expected in the coming weeks and months, in view of the party conference to elect the next party leader. However, this will not necessarily lead to a party split on an alliance with 5SM, as long as – while a majority of party members are willing to replace Renzi – most of them probably agree that PD should seat on the opposition benches, in spite of the public statements of some of them.
    The scenario under which 5SM forms a government thanks to the support of a PD splinter seems far-fetched, if anything because this appears to be at odds with parliamentary arithmetic. 5SM would need nearly all MPs and Senators elected with PD to win a confidence vote, i.e. it needs that PD as a whole takes the decision of granting its external support to a 5SM cabinet, with only a limited number of dissenting parliamentarians voting against the party’s indication.

Mattarella will take a decision basing on the feedback he receives from all the parties. He will choose someone who he expects to be able to win a confidence vote in Parliament, with neither the leader of the largest party (Di Maio) or the leader of the largest coalition (Salvini) being automatically entitled to take office as Prime Minister.

A German-style large coalition between the centre-left PD and the centre-right Forza Italia (without Lega) can be ruled out: by largely backing anti-system parties (5SM and Lega), voters have proven that this is not an option they would like. The forced coexistence of PD and Forza Italia in the first years of the past legislature is probably a main cause of their electoral defeat on 04 March. Voters would hardly accept a government made of the two main losers of general elections.

Next steps

23 March – Parliament is summoned to appoint the two Houses’ Chairs.
25 March – Elected MPs shall formally register with a Parliamentary group by this date.
29 March – The President of the Republic starts talks (“consultations”) to understand whom to entrust to form a new government, basing on the electoral outcome.
4 April – The leaders of Parliamentary groups should take part in consultations by this date.