What‘s next for gridlocked Eurozone member Italy?

Q and A

Q So which party or coalition secured a win in the Italian elections?

A Pier Luigi Bersani’s centre-left coalition got the highest vote in the lower house, automatically giving it 54 per cent of the seats there. But it came second in the senate – Italy’s upper chamber – after scoring about 113 seats compared to 116 going to former leader Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition. With natural ally Mario Monti’s centrist coalition earning just 18 seats, even with the technocrat on-side, Bersani would be some 27 seats short of a majority in the top chamber.

Q Does this mean the parties will form a grand coalition?

A Allying either with comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement or with Berlusconi’s bloc in a grand coalition would produce a majority, but Grillo has promised never to work with the establishment parties. Both Berlusconi and Bersani’s spokesman have talked down the prospects of a left-right unity government.

Q If they can’t form a working government, will there be new elections?

A Politicians on both sides have also spoken out against dissolving parliament and calling new elections so soon after the previous round – making the matter more difficult. The decision to do so, if no party could form a working minority or majority government, would fall on President Giorgio Napolitano, who removed Silvio Berlusconi in 2011 under pressure from EU authorities.

Q How long will the President wait before resorting to new elections?

A Napolitano doesn’t have much time – his mandate expires on 15 May – and procedures to determine his replacement start a month earlier, potentially giving yet another reason for fierce political battling and gridlock in Italian politics.

Q What would happen until the new elections?

A Napolitano has the power to announce a temporary caretaker government, if one does not arise out of parliament. He did this in 2011, replacing Berlusconi with market favourite Mario Monti. But Monti’s party was dealt a fairly emphatic blow in the elections, gaining under 10 per cent of the seats in both chambers, and it’s unclear how long another President-appointed leader would last.