Italy’s inconclusive parliamentary election leaves open a wide range of possible alliances, putting the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in the driver’s seat as the largest party.
The election is a political sea change for Italy, with voters shunning the parties that have governed the country in recent years, including the center-left Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!).
The actual seats in parliament have yet to be definitively assigned, but results show 5-Star emerged as by far the biggest party with about 32 percent of the national vote.
Preliminary seat allocations for the 630-seat lower house give 5-Star 222-224 seats. A four-party conservative coalition led by the far-right League gets 267, and the center-left bloc dominated by the PD 123-125.
Italy has a long history of finding a way out of political stalemates. It will be up to President Sergio Mattarella to guide talks and name a potential prime minister, but that will not happen before April.
Here are some of the possible scenarios:
5-STAR AND THE LEAGUE
The solution feared most by markets is a marriage between 5-Star and the League. The two would have a parliamentary majority and there are some overlaps in their manifestos, with both calling for tax cuts, greater spending on welfare and a rejection of EU budget rules.
Both used to call for Italy to quit the euro, but while 5-Star says the moment has passed, the League says it still wants to leave the single currency at the earliest politically feasible time. League leader Matteo Salvini last year said he was open to hooking up with 5-Star, but has since said he will not abandon his rightist bloc.
5-STAR AND PD
Five-Star in combination with the PD is another possibility, and one more reassuring for the markets. The PD, which has governed since 2013, has however been the main target of 5-Star’s vitriol and there is deep mutual hostility between the two parties.
The PD’s leader Matteo Renzi, who said he would resign after its dismal election showing, ruled out the PD supporting 5-Star and said it would go into opposition. But the party is in such disarray that it is not clear if it will follow its outgoing leader’s bidding.
CENTRE RIGHT WITH SOME OPPONENTS
League leader Salvini says the center right, as the largest coalition, will seek to govern, and claims leadership of the bloc that Berlusconi has steered since 1994. The League took some 17 percent of the overall vote, compared to 14 percent for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
The center right as a bloc drew 37 percent of the vote promising to loosen the state’s purse strings by passing a “flat tax” of 23 percent for all households. The center right would need about half the PD’s lawmakers to swing to their side in order to have a majority in parliament, and the center-left party may think twice before backing a government led by the far-right League.
The idea of 5-Star, the PD and the main center-right parties all joining together is another option. This would give 5-Star, as the biggest party, a major stake in government, with all parties agreeing before its formation what the government should do while in power. The lifespan of such an administration would be about a year, in theory, though it could end up lasting longer. During the campaign, 5-Star appeared open to such a solution in the case of electoral deadlock, as long as others accepted its conditions.
President Mattarella is the man pulling the strings in the post-vote period. He will choose someone to try to form a government as he tried to persuade former rivals to get over the rancor of the campaign. If he fails, he may have no choice but to dissolve parliament and repeat the vote. That is the option the president most wants to avoid, sources told Reuters before the election.