The Italian vote has provided the most unexpected outcome. The center-left coalition has lost its big chance to obtain a relevant victory by taking advantage of the center-right coalition failure in 2011.
Even if Italian electoral law considers a majority as a premium which gives the winning coalition a number of deputies bigger than its real percentage, there is a significant problem of governance because the distribution of seats is different for the two branches of parliament. The Chamber of Deputies is calculated on a national scale, while the Senate is calculated according to the population in every region. Victory in the most populous and key regions of Lombardy, Lazio, Sicily and Veneto has a bigger weight in terms of seats. Moreover, only people over the age of 25 have the right to vote for the composition of the Senate.
This mechanism usually changes the situation and is able to reduce the gap between the two main coalitions at the Senate or, as in this case, can even overturn the composition between the two branches of parliament. Mario Monti’s coalition has performed below expectations, and its hypothetical agreement with Bersani’s center-left coalition won’t be sufficient to secure a solid majority in the Chamber and Senate. This means there is almost no chance to form a stable government, and the only solution seems to be the formation of a temporary government to elect a new president and come back to the polls in May or June.
During his last meetings with US president Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel, President Giorgio Napolitano was quite clear that the work done by Mario Monti’s government had to go on, but the Italian people gave a contrarian response to the austerity policy. In fact, the real outsider of this campaign is the civic movement Five Stars, led by famous comedian Beppe Grillo. In a few years he has built up this new movement from nothing, composed of simple citizens joined together by hatred for the corruption and poor governance of the traditional parties. Five Stars obtained more than 25 percent of the vote.
In his program, Grillo has no specific ideological roots or a clear political theory. Some see his rise as a positive phenomenon, able to realize a peaceful revolution, but most observers consider Five Stars as a demagogue and populist movement. This civic movement has surprisingly increased its consensus among spontaneous citizens associations who protest against financial speculation, pollution, nuclear plants, the installation of US or NATO military bases and Italian military missions abroad. It’s not hard to understand the reason why Five Stars has exceeded 30 percent in Sardinia and Sicily, the two islands where the US military presence is historically less tolerated by local populations.
There are no concrete ideas about international policy among the Italian parties, and the only perceived foreign policy plans seem to be defined by different approaches with which every party considers the EU. The center-left coalition program contains explicit concerns about how to meet the commitments taken by Italy toward the EU and NATO, while the center-right coalition program maintains a traditional Atlanticist stance and prioritizes relationships with Mediterranean partners, but keeps silence about the disaster created by the last Berlusconi’s government due to participation in the Libyan War.
That war significantly weakened the role of Italy in the Mediterranean region, destroying a strong partnership with Muammar Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya and all relevant investments made by state-owned strategic companies like Eni and Finmeccanica. Nevertheless, while Berlusconi seemed forced to intervene by allied countries, the Democratic Party immediately sided with NATO, criticizing Berlusconi for his wait-and-see policy and started to support the Arab Spring immediately. Italy is now even in a more confused situation, but the Italian people have sent politicians a clear message, clamoring for more national sovereignty, social equity and a peaceful rise.
The author is a journalist-author based in Perugia, Italy, and an analyst for Italian geopolitical magazine Eurasia.
* L’articolo Italian vote strong opposition to foreign-imposed austerity è stato originariamente pubblicato a pag. 15 dell’edizione del 28/2/2013 del “Global Times”, tabloid quotidiano internazionale del Partito Comunista Cinese.