Yesterday I wrote my brief comment on the Italian elections on the basis of first projections for the electoral results. It looked then as if Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition had lost while Romano Prodi’s left-wing coalition, the Unione, had not won; today I would say that Berlusconi has almost won. The recovery of the center-right coalition goes well beyond what anyone expected. The main reason is Berlusconi’s ability to fight the electoral campaign on the issue of fiscal policy.
As I wrote yesterday: “In Italy there is a somehow ‘free market oriented’ constituency that believes less taxes, as well as less public expenditure, is good for the economy. It was these who enabled Berlusconi’s center-right Casa della Libertà (House of Liberties) to gain the majority in 2001.”
This time some of them shifted their votes leftward to the center parties Margherita and Rosa nel Pugno, but others apparently decided to give Berlusconi a second chance.
Now that the result is (almost) settled the picture is as follows: the Left is expected to win an extremely narrow majority of votes for the Chamber. This translates, however, into a rather solid majority of seats owing to the system of the majority premium: the winning coalition will automatically be awarded 55 of the Chamber seats. In the Senate it looks as if the Right will have one seat more than the Left. Because the difference is so small, the votes of the expatriate Italians will be decisive. These votes have not all been counted yet.
Italy needs a government that is courageous enough to pursue reforms. It is unlikely that a tight majority of the Right in the Senate will be able to do so. The question to be answered in the next few months is whether Italian MPs, both right and left, will be reasonable enough to work together on specific issues.
An addendum by Chris Gillibrand from Brussels:
Prodi’s party, “La Margherita” (The Daisy) is part of the liberal group in the European Parliament. It is at the centre of L’Unione, which is a quite radical left political movement. The Daisy has two factions: the followers of Prodi and the followers of party leader Francesco Rutelli. One wonders what the British Liberals make of Rutelli’s “social-conservative and Catholic-oriented” faction. Prodi was a Christian Democrat in the days when they still retained some vestiges of Christianity and democracy. Then he did a Cameron and marched off to find new friends on the left.