Real danger of stalemate in wake of Italian poll
One of those most regularly criticised by Grillo is former prime minister Berlusconi who, after pretending for a long time that he was about to drop out of politics, returned with a flourish last autumn. Having made dramatic initial gains in the election campaign, Berlusconi’s progress has been at least partly stopped by an unexpected source: the resignation of Pope Benedict has limited his access to prime-time TV.
Berlusconi’s biggest wheeze this time round has been to offer to reimburse the property tax introduced by his successor, Monti. To underline that point, he sent out millions of letters this week containing a facsimile of a would-be reimbursement form. Confused pensioners have been turning up at the post office or the tax office with copies of the Berlusconi letter, thinking that they could sign on for the payback.
That was bad but worse for him is the expectation that his various Bunga, Bunga and other scandals will see him lose much of the Catholic vote which may head the way of Monti.
Widely admired internationally for his role in steadying the Italian economy in November 2011, Monti is no prophet in his own land where many Italians resent his austerity politics of tax hikes and public service cuts. His share of the vote should be in the 10-15 per cent bracket. If the latest polls are accurate, the PDs, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, will win the election in coalition with the SEL movement of gay activist Nichi Vendola, with a 32-34 per cent vote. This would give them a majority in the lower house but perhaps not in the senate.
At that point, the Five Star movement becomes all important. What way will this squad move? Grillo, who is not a candidate himself, says the movement will decide issue by issue.
Commentators would suggest confusion looms. In the end, Grillo remains the most symptomatic expression of this moment – an angry vote perhaps leading to nowhere.
The Democratic Party (the Partito Democratico, or PD, in Italian)is a mildly left leaning, social democratic party led by Pier Luigi Bersani and believed to be leading the race by a nose.
The party was founded in October 2007 as a merger of various left-wing and centrist parties from the 2006 general election.
The People of Freedom (Il Popolo della Libertà, or PdL)is a centre-right party led by Silvio Berlusconi and founded officially in March 2009 with the amalgamation of his Forza Italia and the National Alliance.
The PdL extols “Christian” and “liberal” values, saying it defends traditional values and the primacy of the individual.
Left Ecology Freedom (Sinistra Ecologia Libertà, or SEL)was previously known as Left and Freedom (Sinistra e Libertà, SL). It is a democratic socialist party, originally founded as a coalition of left-wing parties in 2010.
Its leader is gay activist Nichi Vendola.
The Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle),was originally known as Movement of National Liberation (Movimento di Liberazione Nazionale). It was launched in October 2009 by its leader, Beppe Grillo, a comedian and blogger. M5S is populist, ecologist, and partially Eurosceptic.