A tight race in Italian elections has handed the lower chamber to the left wing coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani with a slim majority, but a larger number of seats in the Senate to Silvio Berlusconi’s right wing coalition.
A majority in both houses is required to form a government. The split vote therefore puts Italy in a state of Limbo with a hung parliament, and is raising fears that political gridlock will make it impossible for the country to take the steps needed to deal with its economic woes.
With 29.55% of the vote in the lower house, a left wing coalition led by Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani seems to have scrapped a win over Silvio Berlusconi whose right wing coalition are on 29.18% of the vote with 99.9% of ballots counted. A winners bonus allocated under the Italian electoral system will give them a small majority. But with an estimated 110 seats to 97 in the Senate, it seems as if Berlusconi has taken the largest share of the 305 seat Senate.
The split vote means that Italy now has its first ‘hung parliament’ in post-war history.
“It is clear to everyone that this is a very delicate situation for the country,” said Bersani, late in the day on Monday.
Due to a huge protest vote, the single largest party in the lower house will now be the ‘Five Star Movement’ – led by the comedian Beppe Grillo. Grillo’s message has struck a chord with voters angry at budget cuts and with the political class in general.
The lack of a clear winner in the weekend’s election has raised fears of instability in Italy, and will make it difficult for the government to take decisive action to revive the economy. The possibility of new elections also adds an element of uncertainty which has increased fears on the world financial markets. Democratic Party officials have suggested that new elections may have to be held within months if no deal can be reached to form a government. Any deal would most likely involve Grillo’s anti-austerity Five Star Movement, although there could also be a broader deal between left and right.