Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Italy votes

Italians went to the polls over the weekend to replace their unelected austerity government, and the result looks like a narrow victory for the centre-left (but pro-austerity) Italy. Common Good coalition. With 98% of polling places reporting, they have a narrow 0.4% lead over Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom - but its a gap which will hold. Which means that under Italy's Porcellum law, they will gain a guaranteed 55% majority on the Chamber of Deputies on only 29.5% of the vote. Its a perfect example of why "winner's bonuses" suck.

Meanwhile the real winner is comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, which has gained 25% of the vote, making it the largest single party in the Chamber. They're anti-establishment, anti-corruption, and anti-austerity - and thanks to holding a balance of power in the Senate, they can decide who forms the next government and how long it lasts. The numbers only allow two real options: a grand coalition of the establishment, or a centre-left government with Five Star support. But given that Italy's "centre-left" are pro-austerity, the latter can't be assumed. There is every chance that Italy's establishment will try and erect a cordon sanitaire against the people who want to clean them up.

(As for former dictator Mario Monti, it turns out that the constituency for his austerity policies is only 10% - which shows precisely why he shouldn't have been appointed in the first place. He had no mandate and no legitimacy. Fortunately now he's also got no power and no say in who runs the country. Suck on that, bankers).

The media seem to be suggesting that there will be new elections if these ones don't go the "right" way. Which is a pretty odd idea of democracy. Italy's people have spoken, and Italy's politicians should respect their decision and try and make the best of it.