Italian Parties Draw Battle Lines Ahead of Election

The left rules out the right. The far left rules out the center-left. The Five Stars rule out everybody. How will Italy be governed?

Prime Ministers Matteo Renzi of Italy and Shinzō Abe of Japan attend a ceremony in Tokyo, August 3, 2015
Prime Ministers Matteo Renzi of Italy and Shinzō Abe of Japan attend a ceremony in Tokyo, August 3, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italian parties are drawing battle lines ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections:

  • Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi, who hopes to become prime minister for a second time, has ruled out another grand coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. Polls suggest such a left-right pact may be the only alternative to a Euroskeptic government.
  • Small left-wing parties have ruled out an alliance with the Democrats. Senate speaker Pietro Grasso, who broke with Renzi in October, is planning to lead a new party, which could split the left-wing vote in favor of the right and the populist Five Star Movement.
  • Berlusconi is appealing a ban from public office, owing to a conviction for tax fraud, to the European Court of Human Rights, but it is unlikely to rule in time for him to stand for election.
  • The formerly separatist Northern League, which splits the right-wing vote with Berlusconi’s party, has said it would rather go into government with the Five Star Movement than Renzi.
  • The Five Stars have ruled out coalitions altogether.

The left, right and Five Star Movement would each get around a third of the votes. But because a third of the seats in the lower chamber of parliament are allocated on a first-past-the-post basis, it matters who places first.