Italian elections resulted in a three way deadlock. No one party is able to form a government on its own, and positions staked out before the election prevent the each faction from working with the other two. Bersani will not attempt to form a government with Berlusconi leaving Grillo’s 5-Star Movement as the only other coalition partner. As a radical of sorts, Grillo has refused to work with either party. Berlusconi has not ruled out working with either party, but no one will form an alliance with him.
Bersani campaigned as a pro-austerity candidate and was expected to form a coalition with Mario Monti, the technocratic Prime Minister installed by Merkel to replace Berlusconi in October of 2011. Bersani has now reversed course and is promising to end austerity:
The vicious link between austerity and recession puts representative democracy at risk and renders it ungovernable.
These are very lofty words, but remember that this tactic has been deployed in Greek, Spanish and French elections so far. A candidate from the either the left or right, placement on the political spectrum does not matter, promises to end budget cuts and tax increases. Once he is safely ensconced in power, he quickly reverses course.
People have been paying attention, and I do not believe that these thinly veiled overtures to Grillo will be successful. Beppe won’t budge.
That leaves two likely possibilities for Italy. Since Bersani has already backed off the austerity platform, there is no reason that he should not completely sell out to form a government and attempt to form a grand coalition with Berlusconi.
Failing that, Italy appears to be heading for new elections. If that is the case, look for party leadership to replace the dour Bersani with the young and popular Mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi. Italy should prove to be more interesting than usual over the next few months.