Italy braces for midsummer elections

FRANCO SILVI

Two girls get the first tan of the year on the beach of Torre del Lago, in Tuscany's Versilia riviera, on 27 May 2008.

Italy braces for midsummer elections


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Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella likened himself to a referee in a game where there is no sense of fair play on Tuesday.

Italy’s addiction to football is as notorious as its political instability. Following a political deadlock, Italy is about to return to the polls, probably in July, although Silvio Berlusconi is making the case for September, as midsummer elections could mean low turnout.

Mattarella is proposing an interim caretaking or “technocratic” government that would lead the country until December, appeasing the financial markets while providing scope for further political negotiation. The President is concerned that if elections disrupted the submission of the 2019 budget, financial markets may punish Italy. For the moment, Italy’s 10-year bonds had a 3% spread as compared to German bunds, which is marginally greater than the cost of sovereign borrowing before the elections.

The Five Star Movement (MS5) has made clear it opposes this scenario; the far-right Euroskeptic League holds the same view. The MS5 leader, Luigi Di Maio, and the Lega’s Matteo Salvini favour a return to the poll as early as July 8. According to ANSA, a more likely date is July 22.

That is the only point of consensus for the two leaders.

Luigi Di Maio accused Salvini of choosing “restoration rather than revolution” by refusing to drop his alliance with Berlusconi to form a radical government with M5S.

The biggest political loser from this instability is Silvio Berlusconi, who hoped to emerge as a king maker on March 4. The latest polls suggest that Berlusconi has seen Forza Italia’s electoral influence decline from 14% in March to 11-to-9% in May.

Salvini’s Lega has made 3-to-7% gains on the polls, from 17% in March to upwards of 22% in May; M5S is holding its ground and could lose 2-3%, from its 34% peak in March.

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