Elections in Italy deepen European Union crisis


Elections in Italy deepen European Union crisis

Peter Schwarz

3 March 2018

Unless the polls are proved wrong, tomorrow’s parliamentary election in Italy will usher in a new stage in the crisis and instability of the European Union (EU).

No party and no electoral alliance expects to win a governing majority. Under the election law, which is being used for the first time, and awards a third of the seats to those candidates finishing first in electoral districts and two thirds of the seats to regional party lists, 42 percent of the vote is needed for a governing majority.

The right-wing electoral alliance of three-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, which also includes the far-right Lega and fascist Fratelli d’Italia, comes closest to achieving this goal with 38 percent support. But even these parties are deeply divided, meaning that even if they secure a majority a stable government would be unlikely.

The strongest single party, according to the polls, is the Five Star Movement (M5S) founded by comedian Beppe Grillo with close to 30 percent. It has no electoral allies. The Democrats (PD), which lead the current government, have the support of just 22 percent, while a split-off from the PD, Freedoms and Equals, enjoys the support of 5 percent.

Italy thus risks being plunged into a deeper crisis on the same day as the result of Germany’s Social Democratic membership vote on a new government is announced, which could resolve a five-and-a-half-month government crisis. With a population of 61 million, Italy will be the third largest country in the EU after Britain’s departure.

Given Italy’s high indebtedness—at 130 percent of economic output Italy has the highest level of state debt as a percentage of GDP after Greece, and its banks are sitting on the largest…

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