In times of deep financial crisis and turmoil, political stalemate and uncertainty is what any country would least want. But such is the mess and confusion which the crisis creates that sometimes indecision reigns supreme. People grope for a solution and end up with indecision. Italy is the latest example.
The general elections in Italy have produced what can be called a stunning deadlock. Those stunned are not only Italians, who are struggling to cope with the aftermath of an election which has produced no clear winner, but the entire Europe which has a stake because Italy is in the throes of a financial crisis and any mismanagement of the crisis or failure could undermine the entire European financial system.
No party came on top comfortably. The most remarkable was the performance of comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment 5-Star movement which won a stunning 26 percent of lower house votes, fractionally more than the centre-left Democratic Party (PD). His 108 seats in the 630 seat Chamber of Deputies and 54 in the 315 seat Senate leave him holding the key to Italy’s political future. Sex scandal-tainted Silvio Berlusconi also made an astonishing comeback from humiliation, coming within a whisker of success. Before the elections, pollsters and analysts had widely predicted that this would be the media magnate’s last election and he would be clearly beaten by his centre-left foes. They said he would eventually disappear from the scene. Bersani’s Democratic Party (PD) lost their commanding opinion poll lead and almost lost the election because of the rise of Grillo and Berlusconi. Prime Minister Mario Monti received only ten percent of the votes, showing Italians’ anger at his austerity packages.
The winner is: Ingovernability,” ran the headline in Rome newspaper Il Messaggero, summing up the deadlock the country will have to grapple with in the next few weeks as sworn enemies are forced to work together to form a government. A government which has to take extremely tough decisions can’t be one which will have to fight for its own survival. Some analysts are seeing another election soon, though none of the parties will be happy about it.
The results were worrying for peddlers of austerity because Italians made a massive rejection of the austerity policies applied by Prime Minister Mario Monti with the backing of international leaders.
The stalemate has sent shockwaves across Europe. Stock markets fell sharply across the region yesterday due to fears that it will inflame the European financial crisis. The Milan market plunged by five percent and there were heavy losses in London, Berlin and Paris. Italian government debt slid in value, pushing up the country’s borrowing costs, while the euro hit a seven-week low as Europe’s debt crisis once again dominated world markets.•