A populist anti establishment backlash has cast doubts over the long-term future of Italy in the European Union after initial general election results indicated a hung parliament.
With final results about to be counted about 50 per cent of voters supported populist parties once considered fringe and brought the disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi back into the highest levels of political influence.
Italy used to be among one of the most pro-EU states. The seismic nature of this election leaves it one of the least. The result will not lead to its departure from the EU or single currency any time soon. But both possibilities are now top of Italy’s political agenda.
Talks were under way following the result on the likelihood of a coalition between a centre-right sub-coalition headed by 81-year-old Berlusconi, anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the xenophobic La Lega, all of which did well in the polls. Berlusconi is banned from elected office following a series of corruption convictions but would be expected to act as a key power-broker.
The group will be expected to provide a rival for PM in a new government. The Five Star Movement was founded just nine years ago by the former comedian Beppe Grillo (pictured). Before the vote, it affected to be reluctant to commit to any future government pact.
Matteo Salvini,leader of the Northern League, which received an unexpectedly large surge in support to become a contender as thelargest Conservative party, claimed he was most entitled to form a new administration.
Traditionally established parties such as the centre-left Democratic Party led by Matteo Renzi, who has now resigned, and Berlusconi’s old Forza Italia are thought to have won insufficient votes to form a cobbled together ruling coalition.
The background to the result is reported to be electoral dismay over the economy, even though it has been showing patchy signs of improvement since 2011. Polls highlighted the view that the political class is out of touch, that there are too few good jobs, that corruption is rife and that immigration is out of control.
Two things are clear and neither are the election result: an intense period of talks, led possibly by Italian president Sergio Mattarella will now take place in Rome; secondly, they won’t be easy.