NEWS » March 2018 General Election

March 2018 General Election

Italians are going to cast their votes next March. The previous premier, Matteo Renzi, stepped down after his electoral law proposal was rejected by the population in a referendum. Since then a new prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, took his place and a new electoral law was passed, in late October, finding fierce opposition from the Five Star Movement which accused the new law of being rigged against them because it favoured parties which build alliances, something the Five Star Movement has always been against. The controversial electoral law is a mix of proportional representation and first-past-the-post voting. Its supporters say it aims to make Italy more governable by encouraging coalition-building, especially among smaller parties, but it could easily result in a hung parliament unable to produce a clear-cut winner. If this will be the case, political bargaining will be needed to try to avoid political impasse.

For this election, electoral manifestos range from five stars’ proposal of a basic income for the unemployed, North league leader, Salvini’s flat tax; Berluconi’s abolition of taxes on donations, inheritance, and the first house; to left wing leader Grasso’s abolition of university fees and more permanent contracts; while, centre-left leader, Mattero Renzi, proposes decreased taxation for families and reduction of labour costs.

Reuters news agency reported that according to the polls, M5S has the most voter support - about 28%, ahead of PD with about 23% and Forza Italia, with about 16%. The M5S which is on track to be the most popular party, has dropped a long-held threat to ditch the euro. Luigi Di Maio, Five Star’s leader, told Italian television that it is no longer the right moment for Italy to leave the euro. This might result in more votes from Eurozone supporters and on the contrary less from Eurosceptics. 

Regional and local elections in recent months have already showed the public political mood, but the result of the general elections is always unpredictable. In Sicily's regional elections in November the centre-right, Berlusconi-backed candidate had just under 40 percent of the votes, while the Democratic Party candidate polled just 18.6 percent. The turnout was low, with fewer than half of the eligible voters casting their ballots, this could also mean that anti-establishment supporters preferred to stay home.

In June’s regional elections the centre-right parties were again the biggest winners, while the Democratic Party lost control of several long-time left-wing strongholds. Once more, turnout was low and the M5S also failed to do as well as predicted. Voters may have chosen to stay home rather than back the anti-establishment party.

Once again in Italian elections it seems that no party looks set to receive 40 percent of votes outright. The M5S is currently leading the polls but its refusal to join a coalition with any of the traditional parties means it is very unlikely that it would be able to form a government. Meanwhile, the ruling centre-left is seriously divided.

The biggest risk Italy is facing is further instability, or in other words, no government being formed and another election held later on.

Giulia Lombardo

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