Waiting for Italian elections: possible outcomes from the polls

by Luca Mario Comincioli

 

For most Italians, Giorgia Meloni is already given as the next Prime Minister. During the last months, the polls have highlighted a continuous increase of Brothers of Italy: Indeed, a win for the centre-right is extremely likely, and this will probably lead to an absolute majority of seats in Parliament and Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia) the party with most votes in the coalition. The current situation has focused national and international interests as well as media and the political agenda on Meloni’s political ideas, in particular those related to foreign policy and her commitment to international duties. However, until there is certainty about the results one must exercise some methodical caution. Italian politics is known for its dramatic and sudden turns of events, and in the past, we have already seen coalitions that seemed to be unbreakable melting like snow in the sun. Not to mention the economic and international context in which the Italian vote is taking place: the energy crisis, soaring inflation, war in Ukraine, problems in the global supply chain, worsening relations with China, the inevitable rise in interest rates and increased cost of debt, not mentioning climate change and its consequences on the human activities.

This is a different election from usual both because it takes place in the fall - for the first time in Italy -, making it more difficult to predict turnout, and because it comes amid the transition from one emergency, the pandemic, to another, the economic and energetic emergency. Parties risk paying a high price for any mistake they have made in the election campaign as well as those they will make in the process of forming a government. This is demonstrated by the centre-left after the collapse of the Draghi government, with the alliance falling apart a few weeks before the vote and splitting into three segments: the Calenda third pole, the Democratic Party allied with the Greens and Italian Left, and the 5 Star Movement.

A fragmentation that will almost certainly condemn the centre-left to defeat. The right-wing coalition also has its divisions, on support for Ukraine, the economic program, on justice reform, but it has so far managed to create a united electoral front that, with a good chance, will bring it into government. Nonetheless, perhaps analysts are taking too much for granted by forgetting, for example, how crucial the role of the President of the Republic is in the composition of the government. That is why it is sensible to consider the possible scenarios.

The most likely outcome is an absolute majority for the centre-right, with  Fratelli d'Italia taking the most votes and also being the first party overall in terms of seats, a coalition being formed to govern, and Giorgia Meloni becoming Prime Minister.

The second scenario is one in which divisions in the winning centre-right coalition begin to surface as early as the formation of the new government. It may happen, for example, that Salvini and Berlusconi try to stop Meloni, proposing to find a different name for the premiership. At that point, the ball would pass to Mattarella, who could either let Meloni negotiate with her partners to agree on a deal or find an alternative as Prime Minister to put at the head of a centre-right majority.

The third scenario involves a narrow victory for the centre-right, with an absolute majority but of only a few seats, or without a majority in one of the two chambers, most likely the Senate. In this case, Fratelli d'Italia would be the first party in the centre-right coalition in terms of votes, but not in absolute terms since the Democratic Party would probably be ahead of it. At this point, the Head of State would have two options: favour the creation of a centre-right executive, albeit a weak one, or move again toward a grand coalition, with the right as the founding core of the majority but together with the centrists and, probably, the Democratic Party.

In this case, the prime minister would probably be a technician or a super party figure. Mattarella faced similar situations in the past legislature: in the formation of the Conte I Government he relied on the criterion of the party with the most votes (at the time the 5 Star Movement) because no coalition had an absolute majority of seats; in the creation of the Conte II Government, on the other hand, the governing majority numbers were quite slim; with the Draghi government he had to favour a governing majority of national unity. This is obviously a marginal scenario, which seems unlikely today, but cannot be entirely excluded considering the unpredictability of voters, the influence of the Head of State's decisions and the weakness of the parties. It is always worth remembering that in Italian politics nothing should be taken for granted even when everything seems to be so.

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