italy election

Italy is set for weeks of negotiation to form a new government after populist parties made major gains in last week’s elections.

The election, which saw the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the anti-immigrant Lega Nord make significant gains in both houses of the Italian parliament, has led to uncertainty around who will form the next government.

With formal coalition talks starting in two weeks time, when votes for speakers for both houses take place, here’s a look at what shape the next Italian government might take.


Centre-right coalition – likelihood: non-starter

Prior to the election, it was anticipated that a good performance by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Lega Nord could result in a centre-right coalition government. However, such an arrangement would be short of a majority in both houses of parliament and therefore would not work.

Grand coalition – likelihood: not a chance

Just like the centre-right coalition, commentators suggested that Forza Italia and the Democratic Party (the largest centre-left and centre-right parties before the election) could potentially make up the numbers to form a government. However, both parties performed extremely poorly and such a coalition would be many dozens of seats short of a majority.

Five Star Movement & Democratic Party – likelihood: possible but unlikely

Whilst such an coalition would hold a slim majority in both houses of parliament, such an arrangement is unlikely as the Democratic Party is extremely split on the prospect. After the election result, Democratic leader Matteo Renzi resigned and ruled out both re-entering government and forming any alliance with ‘extremist’ parties. In addition, Acting Justice Minister of the party Andrea described such an agreement as ‘impossible’, adding that they ‘don’t see the political programme conditions (for such an alliance)’.

However, with a new interim leader, and with Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio open to negotiations with ‘all the parties with no exceptions’, there is discussion about the possibility of entering government as a junior partner to dampen down the intentions of the anti-establishment party.

Populist coalition – likelihood: probable

With Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement emerging as the big winners from the election and with their similar approach to immigration and the European Union, it seems like such a coalition is the most likely to emerge from last week’s vote, despite being called the ‘nightmare scenario’ by many in Europe. Although it may seem like the obvious choice, with a strong majority in both houses, there could be some difficulty in negotiations.

Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini said soon after the election that he had the right to govern and become Prime Minister in any coalition deal after his party becoming the largest in the centre-right coalition. However, under such an arrangement, Lega Nord would be acting as the junior partner to the Five Star Movement and it is likely that Di Maio would take up the role of Prime Minister. Also, should Salvini choose to abandon his centre-right partners, it could jeapordise the pact they have with them where they do not contest seats in northern Italy. This could threaten their number of seats in parliament in the future.

However, with leaders of both parties recently announcing similar policies towards tax cuts, it seems like they maybe heading for government together.

Fresh elections – likelihood: don’t rule it out

Should negotiations reach a stalemate, the Italian President can appoint a short-term government to approve a budget but would eventually hold fresh elections in the hope of providing a clearer result. However, should voters choose to vote the same way again, the political parties may find themselves in the same situation.