Italian imbroglio

March 04, 2013 - 2:05:38 am

Definitely, Italians didn’t vote for a stalemate. But a week after a national election which is now more reviled than praised, that is exactly what they have got. No party or coalition has won a majority in the election to enable them form a government, and those who can form a government are locked in disputes because the points of their disagreements far outnumber those on which they agree.

The responsibility for the current stalemate should primarily lie with the voters. Italians didn’t know whom to elect. They split their ballots among the publicly hated right-winger Silvio Berlusconi; Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of a leftish coalition; Prime Minister Mario Monti, a technocrat whose tax increases pleased German creditors but angered his own people; and a populist comedian, Beppe Grillo, whose party got 25 percent of the vote advocating nothing more than hatred and contempt for politicians. What is more interesting is that a record 30 percent of people didn’t vote, which shows the lack of confidence in politicians and represents a stunning blow to democracy.

The chances are that country will get another caretaker government whose main job will be doing more of the same which they hated Monti for doing.

Europe too should take the blame for pushing the country to its current crisis. Whether Italians succeed in choosing a government or not, they have made one thing clear: their unequivocal disapproval of the austerity programmes imposed on them by Europe. The stunning defeat of Monti, even when a comedian garnered 25 percent of the votes, is proof of their disapproval. 

The onus is on elected leaders to avoid a continuation of the crisis. The Five-Star Movement of Beppe Grillo, which has emerged as the largest party, yesterday listed the conditions for supporting a government. They include changing the electoral law, cutting politicians’ expenses and setting a two-term limit for parliamentarians. 

There has been a sort of consensus among parties on changing the electoral law, though individual parties might differ on the details. In the current system, both the lower and upper houses have equal lawmaking powers and so control of both is required to govern. The last government, led by Mario Monti, tried to change the law, but politicians did not agree on the details.

Amid all the confusion, President Giorgio Napolitano has been both practical and pragmatic. He urged parties to be realistic and not to categorically rule out making agreements with each other. “We all have a duty to safeguard the public interest and the international image of the country,” he said.

Going to the polls again will be an absurd idea. But absurdities are what Italians are going through now•