Analysis: Election result may condemn Italy to weak, short government

Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:09pm EST
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By Barry Moody

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's electoral earthquake seems to have condemned the country to the thing it needs least - a short-term government and new elections in as little as six months or a year.

A huge protest vote in the Feb 24-25 election produced the worst possible result for Italy's stagnant and recession-hit economy - a parliament in which no single group has a workable majority and populist leader Beppe Grillo has the whip hand.

Global markets plunged immediately after the election before calming on Wednesday. But there are deep concerns that sustained instability in the euro zone's third largest economy could reignite Europe's debt crisis.

Italy has a long history through decades of instability of finding a way out of apparently intractable political stalemate but there appear to be only two options this time and neither of them looks very easy.

The first is a government led by center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who has a majority in the lower house but not the Senate, and backed by Grillo's 5-Star Movement.

The second is an alliance between Bersani and those on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the center-right of Silvio Berlusconi, who staged an astonishing fight back to recover from scandal and humiliation and come within a whisker of beating the center-left in the election.

However, Grillo has dismissed the first option and there is great opposition among the center-left rank and file to any alliance with Berlusconi, who often dismisses Bersani's supporters as communists.

Berlusconi, a 76-year-old billionaire media magnate, has been uncharacteristically quiet since the election, but appears to favor a pact with Bersani to stay in the game. Bersani's leftist ally, Nichi Vendola, has brusquely ruled such a "grand coalition" out of court.   Continued...

Police patrol in front of Chigi palace in Rome February 28, 2013. REUTERS/Yara Nardi