Berlusconi wins a clear majority

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Silvio Berlusconi will be Italy’s next prime minister and his margin of victory is bigger than most people expected. His People of Freedom (PDL) movement, the Lega Nord and the small MPA will be able to control both houses of parliament. Prior to the elections it had been unclear whether the centre-right would be able to gain a majority in the Senate. But these doubts faded on election night and the PDL/Lega Nord/MPA will not need to look for further coalition allies.

When voting ended at 3 p.m. on Monday, early exit polls seemed to indicate a small margin of victory for the centre-right alliance and Veltroni’s PD as the strongest party. However, the exit polls turned out to be wrong. As more and more results came in, the distance between Berlusconi’s coalition and the centre-left kept on growing. In the evening, Veltroni finally conceded defeat.

On Monday night, the latest projections saw the centre-right at 45.9 and the centre-left at 38.9 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies and at 46.8 and 38.4 per cent respectively in the Senate.

The PDL leadership issued a statement that it was “profoundly satisfied” with the outcome but it did not want to comment in more detail until all the results were in. The PDL’s coalition partner, Umberto Bossi from the Lega Nord, on the other hand, started celebrating straight away. He immediately called for new reforms but also pledged loyalty to Berlusconi. The Lega greatly  increased its share of the vote in both houses of parliament.

The primary loser of the elections is certainly Walter Veltroni since he failed in his bid for the job of prime minister. Nonetheless, some other parties have just as much reason to be disappointed. Pierferdinando Casini of the centrist UDC, for example, had hoped to play king-maker in case of a hung parliament. But his hopes are dashed by the margin of the PDL’s victory. The elections were also bad news for the Socialist Party which struggled to get one per cent of the vote and the far-right La Destra which stayed below 3 per cent.

The most crushing defeat of all, however, was reserved for the radical left. The so-called Sinistra Arcobalena, which had remixed communists and environmentalists, fell below 4 per cent. Split into different parties at the last elections it had won more than 10 per cent of the vote in 2006. This spectacular defeat demonstrates that communism is not a serious force in Italian politics anymore.

The elections have yielded two principal outcomes. First of all, a new executive can be formed which is not constrained by cliff-hanger votes and tiny parties. This will form a welcome contrast to the Prodi government which was constantly at the point of falling apart due to its miniscule majority in the Senate.

The second outcome is even more important and can be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of Italians regardless of their party preferences: Italy is moving towards a bipolar political system with two strong political groups, the PDL on the centre-right and the PD on the centre-left. Thus, the long political transformation which began after the disintegration of the Christian Democrats and the old Communist Party in the early 1990s is about to lead to a modern political system, capable of producing strong governments and coherent majorities.

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