Italians have voted. As it struck 00:00 on Tuesday, 26th of February, the poll results showed that in the lower house, centre-left won 29.6% of the votes, centre-right 29.2%, the 5 Star Movement 25.6%, followed by Monti’s party winning 10.6%. In the Senate the race is equally tight, with 119 seats for centre-left, 110 for centre-right, 56 for the 5 Star Movement and 19 seats for Monti. The results clearly demonstrate a lack of majority and, in fact, the theme of this nerve-wrecking night is that of ungovernability.
One point, however, can be deduced; Mario Monti’s austerity plans have failed and as the latest predictions had suggested, Bersani didn’t win and Berlusconi didn’t lose. As an Italian with foreign origins, I am in denial of the number of votes Berlusconi’s centre-right party won, despite the countless humiliations he put us through. While I cannot explain the possible reasons why an Italian today would still vote for Berlusconi to be prime minister, I can see why the other political parties are performing the way they are.
Firstly, the real winner of this election has been Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, who founded his political party the 5 Star Movement only three years ago and who tonight is competing very closely with the two dominant political parties. He has won the hearts of those who are disappointed and aspire to be part of a radical change that scraps all that the old guard has represented until now. An equally important aspect of Grillo’s political movement, is that he is the only fresh idea Italians had on offer. Grillo’s party uses social media and online resources in ways that communicate directly with young voters, a skill lacking in other Italian political parties.
As a result, this radical anti-politician movement, took away a significant number of votes that would otherwise have gone to the centre-left party of Pier Luigi Bersani. Those with left-wing views who are tired of a rather dormant reputation were persuaded by the hype and innovation with which Grillo campaigned for this election. This stopped the centre-left from gaining a clear majority in both the lower house and the senate and here we are, with this ungovernable situation.
In the senate, the magic number is 158 seats, but, for the moment, the centre-left has only won 119 seats and the only way to gain a majority is by co-operating with Grillo, who already said that he will not be part of a coalition government.
What will happen next will trouble the financial markets and the confidence level of Italians regarding their political system and their politicians. It is very unlikely that the centre-left and the centre-right parties will agree to form a coalition. Even if a forced alliance were to be created, because of their opposing views on taxation, social welfare and the EU, every single action the government would want to take would have to be repeated three, four times. The centre-right party just announced that with only a 0.4% difference in votes for the lower house this is a case of too close to call and claims that Italians should go back to the ballot box.
Looking at the results of the 1.12 million votes from abroad, the picture is surely different, with at least a 15% gap between those who voted for the centre-left against those who voted for centre-right. It is clear, therefore, that Italians living abroad are much more conscious of the detrimental effect Berlusconi’s reign has had on the credibility of Italy.
What in fact is most concerning is the seeming lack of concern of Italy’s positioning in the wider world by the voters. Have we forgotten that the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, had to throw Berlusconi out from power because the borrowing cost had reached 6%? Do we not understand that Italy can no longer survive on its own, now that we have already committed to be part of the EU and have been using the Euro?
We live in a globalised world and, believe it or not, there are many advantages to be had. It is clear that Italians are tired of going through hardship, but a sense of responsibility has to prevail people must realise that there is no turning back, we have committed to be part of a larger network and must put effort into making it work. If future performance is predicted on past performance, why vote for someone who has already embarrassed us?