Commentary. With best regards and a fond farewell to Gentiloni, we have now been through a fruitless exploration of alternatives, and are going back to the polls.

Italy faces the precipice: a return to the polls

The Italian president spoke in a quiet voice during the eight-minute speech in which he made the dramatic announcement that we are facing the unexpected and much-feared situation of “a legislature that will end without even having started.”

At the end of the third and final round of consultations, the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, went before the press and made his voice heard in the homes of Italians on the evening news, and announced before everyone the ultimate failure of the strenuous efforts to build a majority government.

This political crisis touches upon the larger, institutional one.

European-level appointments and the budget are the main obstacles threatening to defeat the small contingent that the head of state will do his best to put together for a quick, temporary mission, which would need to last at least until December.

However, it has now become clear, to the president more than to anyone else, that having a “neutral” government without parliamentary support will lead to a position where a snap election will be the only option, possibly as early as July.

Whatever the date of the return to the polls, on Monday the projected numbers for this upcoming “runoff” were already being touted. Di Maio is asking the voters to give him 40 percent, and Salvini could get there easily in tandem with Berlusconi and his gregarious Forza Italia.

There will certainly be an additional round of elections, as the political head of the 5 Star Movement had himself anticipated when he suggested to enact the reform of the electoral law while always working toward the end goal—that is, calling the citizens back to the polls.

The Lega will get even more votes in many precincts, given the new power the right has achieved, and the 5 Star Movement will try to replicate the successes they got in the local elections.

In the end, Di Maio and Salvini will be able to inaugurate the Third Republic with their government.

And perhaps the left-wing electorate whose votes have gone to the 5 Stars (and also to the Lega, as the inconsolable Bersani himself recognized when talking about the regions that had formerly been red) will have some self-reflection to do.

It is possible that the vote will be held, for the first time, right in the middle of summer. We will know more in the coming hours, when the “government of no one,” destined to be short-lived, will finally appear on the scene. “Of no one” because it will probably lack support in Parliament, and it comes with an expiration date.

President Mattarella has not even officially given the task to try to form a government to either one of the two strongest groups, in order not to favor anyone in view of the coming snap election.

With best regards and a fond farewell to Gentiloni, we have now been through a fruitless exploration of alternatives, and are going back to the polls.

Once upon a time, the famous “seaside governments,” a Christian-Democrat trademark, would last at least for the duration of the summer break. Yet, our next one will perhaps have to open polling stations on the beaches: “in the middle of summer,” as Mattarella said, “making it difficult for people to exercise their voting rights.”

That is because, according to the president, if we choose to organize elections in the Fall, this might mean going from the frying pan into the fire, due to “the risk of not passing the budget package.”

While we wait to see who will be our temporary leaders, we already have to face the first effect of the electoral earthquake caused by the March elections. After the tremor the ground has not yet settled, and this gives us, the survivors, nowhere to live except for one of those disaster shelters made of shipping containers, ready to be dismantled to make way for a government with actual political support.

In any case, we will have to face this political show for a couple of months longer. Rather than filling the squares with angry people, as Di Maio imagines, this eternal election campaign will most likely fuel the voters’ alienation.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of a citizen who will see unfamiliar faces appear on TV as the new ministers, it is not difficult to foresee a more and more entrenched refusal to play along.

Such a feeling will naturally also be felt by the disheartened voters on the left, as, after they put all their hopes into March 4 with the choice of LeU and Potere al popolo, they have no more willful optimism left.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!