Mariah Partin, Staff Writer
March 5 was Italy’s general election, which consisted of choosing over 900 members of its two houses of Parliament, the lower (and more important) house, the Chamber of Deputies and the upper house, the Senate. Former prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Renzi lost seats as voters shifted towards anti-establishment parties. Renzi has now formally resigned as leader of his party and has indicated that he has no interest in joining any government. The Five Star Movement (M5S) won a plurality of the votes, about 33 percent of the six parties that gained representation, which was shocking as M5S began as a protest movement in 2009 by a satirical comedian, Beppe Grillo. This makes the Five Star Movement the largest single party, but the results showed that a center-right bloc, led by the anti-immigration Lega party, won the most seats as a group. Given that no party or bloc had enough seats in parliament to allow them to govern on their own, CNBC predicts a long negotiation process to form a government. This means certain parties will have to form a coalition to attain enough seats in the parliament to form a government.
Since the Five Star Movement has the majority of votes, they could link up with other parties and form a coalition in order to gain a majority in the lower house, though originally leader Luigi Di Maio said they would be unwilling to join a coalition. Some European politicians are also nervous about the populist parties gaining strength as they have criticized the euro and the European Union. The Lega leader has supposedly called the euro a “failed experiment,” an opinion criticized by many leaders of the EU but felt by a large proportion of the electorate of many countries across the EU. CNBC reported that Italy is the euro zone’s third-largest economy, so opposition to the EU and the euro could cause issues in the future. Italy’s economy played a factor in the run-up to the election, as they have had pretty low growth and an unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, which was an important topic during the debate. The Washington Post said that Italy’s government has not been focusing enough on growth and employment, especially for young people. They further reported that this has led to many youths expatriating and others giving up hope.
According to Gulf News, Italy has had 62 separate governments since 1946, and only the last two governments have managed to complete their full terms.
Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, has gained popularity and surprised mainstream media as he was a college drop-out and a former waiter. The party has called for Italy leaving the EU, but Di Maio has now made more comments about staying in the bloc and has further gained popularity by acknowledging the failure of parties on the left and right, bringing the birth of M5S. Immigration has played a part in the political debate for Italy too, which was another leading factor in Brexit. The Guardian reports over 600,000 migrants have arrived since 2014. They also reported that voters opted for the parties with generous campaign promises such as a flat tax rate, a universal income and early retirement, which would interfere greatly with Europe’s budget constraints. Politicians in Europe are nervous about the outcomes of Italy’s election, especially French President Emmanuel Macron who desires greater EU integration. The new parliament sat together on the March 23 for the first time, where they will elect presidents of the two chambers. Italian media suspects the best way to avoid parliamentary gridlock will be a national unity government backed by all main parties involved.