Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Italy to hold elections on 4 March

  • Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (c) is back in Italian politics, although he cannot become prime minister unless a tax fraud conviction is overturned (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Italy will go to the polls on 4 March, the government decided on Thursday (28 December), after the Italian president dissolved parliament.

The elections could mean the end for Paolo Gentiloni's run as prime minister, and a possible return to the centre of power for Silvio Berlusconi.

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  • Gentiloni (r) could stay on as caretaker prime minister if the March elections produce a hung parliament (Photo: elysee.fr)

The centre-left has been in power in Italy since 2013 and suffered electoral setbacks elsewhere in Europe.

The elections could also result in a period of uncertainty, if polls predicting the outcome come true.

None of the parties or traditional coalitions would win a majority, if current polls are accurate.

If coalition talks stall, it could mean that the current cabinet of Gentiloni would be required to continue as caretaker government.

That would see Gentiloni representing his country as a lame duck prime minister at the 22-23 March EU summit in Brussels for example, when trade, defence, the single market, and digital issues like taxation of the digital economy are on the agenda.

But outgoing prime minister Gentiloni said on Thursday that Italy could handle a period of uncertainty.

"We mustn't dramatise the risk of instability, we are quite inoculated against it," he told reporters.

Since World War II, the largest eurozone country after Germany and France has seen frequent changes of government.

The centre-left government in power since the previous elections in 2013 has seen already three prime ministers.

Before Gentiloni, it was led by Matteo Renzi, who in turn had dethroned Enrico Letta.

In March, it will be Renzi who will vie to become prime minister again on behalf of the Democratic Party.

But polls indicated tough competition.

One party doing well is the Five Star Movement, a populist party which in the European Parliament sits with the eurosceptic Ukip, although it often behaves more constructively on topics such as the environment.

The anti-establishment party, led by Luigi Di Maio, has previously promised a referendum on Italy's eurozone membership.

Last Summer though, Five Star Movement member Carla Ruocco told Reuters that a euro referendum was a plan B and "a negotiating tool".

"Big investors and markets should be able to distinguish it from the real intentions of a 5-Star government on the subject of the euro," she said.

The other party doing well in the polls is the centre-right Forza Italia, led by former prime minister Berlusconi.

The 81-year old billionaire said on Thursday that if in power, Forza Italia would provide a monthly €1,000 basic income to the 9 million poorest Italians.

"Nobody can live well, even if they are well off, knowing that around us there are millions of Italians who have to live on public assistance or private charity," said Berlusconi, who himself would not be able to become prime minister due to a conviction for tax fraud.

The plan was immediately criticised by Renzi, asking how it would be paid - "with Monopoly money?"

Italian regions demand autonomy from Rome

The Lombardy and Veneto regions in northern Italy are seeking greater self-determination from the central government following referendum results on Sunday.

EU approves rescue of Italian banks

The European Commission gave the green light to a €17-billion plan by the Italian government to save Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca.

Analysis

Sicily: Renzi finds Achilles heel in boot of Italy

Elections in Sicily at the weekend saw Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party trounced into third place - can the one-time wonder kid of Italian politics bounce back in time for 2018's national election?

Italians vote in election dominated by migration and EU

Sunday's election outcome, under a new system, remains uncertain and is likely to result in uneasy coalitions between parties with conflicting views on how to deal with migrants and play a senior role in Europe.

Opinion

The populists may have won, but Italy won't leave the euro

The situation as Rome tries to form a government is turbulent and unpredictable. However, the most extreme eurosceptic policies floated during the election campaign are unlikely to happen - not least due to the precarious state of the Italian banks.

Far-right parties re-register to access EU funds

After missing a funding deadline, the far-right nationalist Alliance for Peace and Freedom and the Alliance of European National Movements are back in the game and possibly eligible for EU money in 2019.

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