Italy’s Mainstream Parties Seek Way Out of Deadlock

Left-wing leader Pier Luigi Bersani will struggle to form a majority government.

Italy’s largest left- and right-wing parties on Tuesday started to look for ways out of a political stalemate a day after elections in the Southern European country failed to give either a majority in both chambers of parliament.

Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party and its left-wing allies emerged from Sunday’s and Monday’s election with a majority in the lower chamber but former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Libertà won most seats in the Senate thanks in part to its electoral pact with the federalist Lega Nord which performed well in the large industrial states Lombardy and Veneto.

Dissatisfaction with the austerity policies of incumbent prime minister Mario Monti boosted support for Berlusconi’s conservative party as well as comedian Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement which got a plurality of the votes in several regions, including Sicily.

Berlusconi and Grillo now command a majority in the Senate but an alliance between them is almost unthinkable. Rather, Bersani, who is expected to initiate coalition talks, will likely reach out to either Grillo or Il Popolo della Libertà or head a minority government.

Grillo promised on Tuesday to work with any party that supports his proposals, which range from anti-graft legislation to green energy programs, but rejected the possibility of entering a formal coalition. “It’s not time to talk of alliances,” he said. “The system has already fallen.” He predicted that the mainstream parties “won’t be able to govern” with or without him.

Reelections may be necessary to break the deadlock but they are unlikely to be called before presidential elections have taken place in April. Incumbent president Giorgio Napolitano could appoint a caretaker government but it would still have to win the confidence of majorities in both chambers of parliament.