No end in sight to Italian stalemate

Beppe Grillo, leader of the protest movement M5S, repeated his call for a referendum on Italy's membership of the euro zone. photograph: reuters

Beppe Grillo, leader of the protest movement M5S, repeated his call for a referendum on Italy's membership of the euro zone. photograph: reuters

Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 00:00

The Italian political landscape remains confused in the wake of last week’s general election result, which resulted in a hung parliament.

The three largest parties in the parliament – the Democratic Party (PD), the online protest movement M5S and the People of Freedom (PDL) party of media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi – have so far failed to come to an agreement about the formation of a national cross-party government.

Over the weekend, however, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano called for “measured, responsible and realistic” solutions to the impasse, adding that all parties had a “duty” to safeguard “the national interest and the country’s international image”.

Many commentators interpreted that comment as meaning the president does not favour an immediate return to the ballot box but will rather work to construct some form of cross-party, national government.

The sticking point remains the senate, where the PD party has 123 seats, the PDL 118 and the M5S 54.

When Mr Napolitano holds consultations with a view to nominating a government following the reconvening of parliament on March 15th, he may well still ask PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani to try to form an executive.

His reasoning will be that while the Democratic Party was not the outright winner of the election, it was nonetheless returned as the country’s strongest party.

Bribery allegations

A PD-PDL alliance of the sort that underwrote Mario Monti’s technocratic government seems highly unlikely, given not only the historic distrust and tensions between the two parties but also the allegations last week that Berlusconi had indulged in a massive bribery campaign to bring down the centre-left government of former European Commission president Romano Prodi in 2008.

The difficulties of a PD-M5S alliance were underlined yesterday when Beppe Grillo, leader of the protest movement, repeated his call for a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro zone.

Ex-comedian Grillo busied himself yesterday jogging on the beach close to his Ligurian home, in the process refusing to speak to the Italian media.

Parliamentary meeting

Meanwhile, the 162 M5S parliamentarians travelled to Rome yesterday, many of them complete with sweatshirts and rucksacks, to hold an initial parliamentary party meeting.

For the time being they are observing a press blackout. Mr Grillo is expected to speak to and for them today.