Can Silvio prevent a left majority?
Italy is set to hold parliamentary elections on February 24-25th. In 2008 Silvio Berlusconi comfortably won, leading the centre-left coalition of Walter Veltroni by around 9%. As is often the case on the Italian political scene, his government couldn’t finish its 5 year term and Mario Monti took over as a “technocrat” PM in late 2011. 47 lists or coalitions of lists are contesting this election but just five coalitions are likely to poll over 4% (the threshold required to get seats in the House).
After announcing his retirement 2-3 times, Berlusconi is back at the helm of the centre-right coalition. At the last minute, his PdL managed to re-establish its alliance with the Northern League (Lega Nord) once again. On the centre-left, the PD is proposing Pier Luigi Bersani for PM, a former minister under the centre-left governments during 1996-2001 and 2006-08 periods, coming from the old Eurocommunist tradition. His coalition also includes SEL (Greens + former Communists) led by Apulia governor Nichi Vendola.
After his stint as PM, Monti decided that he would like to be a politician after all and he created his movement, called Civic Choice. He’s joined by Casini’s UdC (Christian Democrats) and Fini’s FLI in the “With Monti for Italy” coalition (Con Monti per l’Italia). Former TV entertainer Beppe Grillo created the Movimento 5 Stelle (5 Star Movement) to ride the populist “anti all parties” wave, which is quite big because of all the scandals Italian politicians are usually involved in. Finally, former prosecutor and political newcomer Ingroia leads Civic Revolution (which is basically a coalition of former prosecutor Di Pietro, Naples mayor De Magistris, former communists, and former Greens who didn’t follow Vendola).
The campaign started with Bersani’s centre-left coalition comfortably leading. However, Berlusconi has been hyperactive with an intensive TV presence (even attending political chat shows hosted by hostile journalists). At the same time, the PD have run a lackluster campaign (and they were marginally hit by a scandal involving a bank close to them). The gap started to tighten and now Bersani is just 5-6% ahead. Those who remember the nail-biting election night in 2006, with punters on the edge of their seats, may recall that the centre-left Prodi coalition held off Berlusconi’s coalition by just 0.1% in the Chamber of Deputies – but the final opinion polls two weeks earlier had given the centre-left a similar lead to their 2013 final poll lead…
Latest polls (note – no new polls published after 8th February)
IPR: Bersani 34.2%. Berlusconi 28.0%. Grillo 16.5%. Monti 14.1% Ingroia 4.2%
TECNE’: Bersani 33.2% Berlusconi 29.2% Grillo 16.3% Monti 12.9% Ingroia 5%
SWG: Bersani 33.8% Berlusconi 27.8% Grillo 18.8%. Monti 13.4% Ingroia 4.1%
QUORUM: Bersani 34.5% Berlusconi 29.5% Grillo 14.7%. Monti 13.9% Ingroia 3.9%
IPSOS: Bersani 34.9% Berlusconi 28.3% Grillo 15.8%. Monti 15.3% Ingroia 3.7%
PIEPOLI: Bersani 37% Berlusconi 32% Grillo 13 Monti 13% Ingroia 3.5%
EUROMEDIA: Bersani 34.4% Berlusconi 32.7% Grillo 14.5%. Monti 12.3% Ingroia 3.8%
ISPO: Bersani 37.2% Berlusconi 29.7% Grillo 14.3%. Monti 12.9% Ingroia 4.2%
EMG: Bersani 35% Berlusconi 28.5% Grillo 16%. Monti 14.1% Ingroia 3.5%
The electoral system used is quite complicated. In the Chamber of Deputies, the coalition coming out on top in Italy (exlcuding Valle d’Aosta) will get 55% of the seats available (340 seats). There are 630 seats up for grabs, 12 are elected by Italians voting overseas, one from the small region of Valle d’Aosta, while Italy excluding Aosta elects 617. However, the Senate (we have a perfect bicameral system with both houses having the same powers) is elected at regional level. This makes the political composition of the Senate more complex to predict and the absolute majority more difficult to reach.
Bersani will win more regions, but Berlusconi is strongest in big regions where more seats are at stake. The key regions are Lombardy, Veneto, Sicily, Campania and Apulia. Veneto looks to be held comfortably by Berlusconi. In Apulia and Campania, Bersani seems ahead but they are still too close to call. To get a majority, Bersani needs them and at least one between Sicily and Lombardy.
Andrea is a regular poster on Politicalbetting
(Double Carpet adds:) With the two-house system, a new government will need to win a confidence vote in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, so even if the centre-left win the majority in the Chamber, Bersani as PM might well need the support of Monti in the Senate – could “Super Mario” leave the premiership but return as Finance Minister? As the experience of 2006 shows, love him or loathe him, Berlusconi can not be underestimated as a political operator, especially with all his media and financial firepower, and it looks as though there may be a leaders’ debate on Thursday which might be to his advantage too. The 2013 election has long seemed in the bag for Bersani and the centre-left, but might Berlusconi (with the tacit support of Grillo?) yet have them snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? And if that’s the case, will they bitterly regret not voting for the younger, and more charismatic (but less popular with the rank and file membership) Matteo Renzi to be the centre-left’s standard-bearer at the election?
Unusually, Italy has two days for the general election, Sunday and Monday (the Czechs are another example with Friday/Saturday) so the exit polls should be available at the close of voting at 2pm GMT on Monday 25th February. If the result is a comfortable win, as in 2008, the result should be very clear by 6-7pm UK time, but if it’s wafer-thin and we’re waiting on close results in Senate regions, it could be getting on for midnight. A final thought – should the centre-right win and (as Silvio has said will happen) Angelo Alfano becomes the new PM (despite Berlusconi being the coalition leader for the election), I haven’t seen him mentioned in many betting markets.
If anyone would like to play the Italy election game, it’s available below – entries close 7am GMT next Sunday, and the Eastleigh and then Mid-Ulster games will be out next.