Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Italian Elections: Winners and Losers

     So, what to make of this vote: national elections were held as scheduled.  The results were as predicted, somewhat.   There was no clear victor among the candidates whether in the Senate(Upper House) or the Chamber(Lower House).  Let's look at the parties and compare results for each.
                                    % of Vote          change from last vote
1.  5 Star                     32.22                      +6.62
2. Democratic Party   18.8                         - 6.50
3. La Lega                  17.69                      +13.59
4. Forza Italia             13.94                       -7.66
5. Fratelli d'Italia          4.35                        2.35
6. Free & Equal            3.38                        ------

      None of the parties commanded more than one third of the votes cast.   The 5 Star Movement, the right wing party founded by the ex-felon Beppe Grillo received the most votes of any party.  They succeeded mostly in the southern 2/3's of the country and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.  In southern Italy, unemployment among the youth reaches almost 50%.   The 32% is significant, representing a 6.6% improvement over the last election results and almost double the closest rival.  This is a party that was founded by a comedian who made hay ridiculing politicians across the field.
      The Democratic Party(former Communist Party) reached 18.9% this time, a drop of 6.5%.  This could be the end of former Premier Matteo Renzi, the former Mayor of Florence in Tuscany.  The party was able to reach voters primarily in west central Italy, its traditional roots.  renzi will have to negotiate a coalition using his best efforts, but not many pundits agree on that outcome.
     La Lega(The League), formerly the Northern League(Lega di Nord) expanded its reach across the Po River plain, overwhelming all other parties in the industrial part of Italy where jobs are plentiful, and unions are not entirely in control.   Its improvement of 13.59% make its standard bearer, Matteo Salvini a significant player in any coalition negotiations.   His anti-immigrant position carries far in the south and in those areas directly affected by the sudden influx of refugees and illegal immigrants from Libya, Syria, and sub-Saharan Africa.   He was able to point to the failures of the EU in Brussels to provide any meaningful solution to the problem.   Just yesterday, the Italian navy seized a Spanish ship operated by an NGO that picked up a boat load of migrants that had set out from Libya, and had refused to return them to Libya as per an agreement with Libyan authorities.
      Forza Italia, the party of former premier, Silvio Berlesconi, took a beating, garnering only 13.9% of votes, a drop of 7.66%.  This will force the party to join another conservative/right wing coalition to maintain any suitable bloc in the parliament.   Mr. Berlesconi is still unable to run due to his conviction on tax evasion a few years ago.
     The Fratelli d'Italia Party gained ground but not in double digits.  It improved only 2.35% to 4.35%.  This ultra right wing group is still considered a fringe player among careful watchers of the elctorate; but its improvement indicates frustration of even that body of voters, small as it is.
     Last and least is the Free & Equal Party that showed with only 3.38% of the vote, its first significant collection since its founding just a few years ago.

The Possible Coalitions
        La Lega and Forza combined would bring a third of electors together, matching the 5 Star party by itself.

       The 5 Star M. and La Lega, both right wing conservatives and anti-immigrant could combine which could bring a 50% controlling bloc.  Many differences exist between the two, and it's not as simple as it might appear.

        A large bloc consisting of Forza/ Lega/ Dems/ and  5 Star could possibly be formed.  This would total almost 80% of the votes.  While possible, it would be too much to hope for among the disparate members of any coalition.

     Or, President Marterella could call for new elections, a distinct possibility.

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