In the current year, many have feared (or hoped for) the rise of anti-EU, anti-establishment or simply radical parties or candidates (which, more than occasionally, turned out to be radical right parties) in countries such as France or the Netherlands. According to some commentators, this would have led, in the long run, to the disgregation of the current ‘liberal’ order, at least in Europe, and to the collapse of the European Union after the Brexit blow in 2016. However, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen did not succeed and the European project has not been hit further.
I thought, anyway, that many would have turned a closer attention to Italy by now, as it seems the most likely potential target for anti-EU forces, but, apparently, it did not happen – wrongly, in my opinion. There are two factors, indeed, that make Italy a target for anti-EUs’ appetites. First, after two decisions of the Constitutional Court in 2014 and in 2017, and the referendum held in December, Italy now has a substantially PR voting system both for the lower house and the Senate – remember: both have equal powers. This means that coalitions are almost necessary to rule the country. Second, no natural coalition seems likely to win a majority of seats: both a potential centre-left and a potential centre-right coalition look unable to attract more than 30%-40% of votes, while the Five Star Movement rules out any form of alliance with other parties.
According to a seat projection published by Termometro Politico on 15 July, both a Democratic Party-led wide centre-left coalition and a traditional centre-right coalition would be about 75-100 seats short of a majority. The latest polls seem to confirm these number as well. There are two viable alternatives, anyway, both defined by a different cleavage than the usual left/right distinction.
The main alternative is a grand coalition, which basically already ruled Italy for two years between November 2011 (creation of Monti’s technocratic cabinet) and November 2013 (exit of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia from the coalition supporting Letta’s cabinet). Renzi (or someone on Renzi’s behalf, if the Democratic leader fails to avoid a poor electoral performance) and Berlusconi might strike a deal, and probably Italy would end up with a cabinet substantially unable to deliver reforms (taxation, electoral law, further changes in the labour market) or properly handle emergencies such as migrations across the Mediterranean Sea.
The other main alternative requires some imagination, but it is feasible: a M5S-led minority government supported by the right without any official deal. A manifesto including a referendum on Italy’s eurozone/EU membership, a promise of a crackdown on migrants (a topic on which the Five Star Movement has often shown an ambiguous stance), a will to discuss the repeal of some laws (such as the 2011 pensions reform) could be enough convincing for the Northern League and the right to provide the newly-formed cabinet with parliamentary support.
So far there have been only insiders’ rumours on this hypothesis. The M5S does not want allies, while the Northern League is committed to becoming the main centre-right party and making its leader Matteo Salvini the new de facto centre-right leader, finally ousting Berlusconi from the role. But, again, have a look at Termometro Politico‘s simulation:
- M5S – 185 seats
- Northern League – 95 seats
- Brothers of Italy-National Alliance – 29 seats
- TOTAL: 309 seats
The majority in the lower house is 316 seats. Not really far. The grand coalition does not openly attract anyone – even if some surely back it in secret. My opinion is that this might bring unintended consequences in the map of Italy’s political power as well as in the rest of Europe.