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Italy's election outcome presents political gridlock

By Miao Xiaojuan, Liu Yu (Xinhua)

09:39, February 26, 2013

ROME, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Neither center-left Pier Luigi Bersani nor center-right Silvio Berlusconi will obtain a majority in the Senate, according to interior ministry's official vote count, pushing Italy's crucial parliamentary election into a rare political gridlock that has rocked global markets.

The frontrunner Bersani leads in the lower house but can not secure a majority of seats in the Senate, thus forcing him to ally with either Berlusconi or Five Star Movement's Beppe Grillo if forming a government.

The wildness and difficulty of horse-trading with Berlusconi or Grillo could lead to another equally depressing option: a second election. Either way, the country's international credibility as well as the eurozone's stability and investors' confidence will be undermined.

The center-left coalition has gained nearly 30 percent in the lower house, slightly higher than Berlusconi, according to the count of most domestic ballots. Overseas ballots still have a chance of reversing Bersani's victory, in which case Berlusconi would face the exact same stalemate.

In the Senate, Bersani has gained over 31 percent while losing key battleground regions including Lombardy and Campania, thus being projected to secure 120 seats.

Bersani could have allied with outgoing premier Mario Monti's centrist party, only that Monti was projected to gain merely 21 seats. Any party or coalition needs 158 seats in the 315-strong Senate for a majority.

According to Italy's electoral laws, the party that ranks the first but falls short of a majority in the lower house will be given additional seats to reach the majority. The "bonus rule" works in a similar pattern for the Senate but additional seats are given only on a regional basis.

Thus in the case of this election, Bersani lost most key regions to Berlusconi, while Grillo was surprisingly projected to grab over 50 seats, making Bersani impossible to guarantee 158 seats unless forming a coalition with his rivals.

Notably, Italy's government always needs the support of both the lower house and the Senate to govern, which have equal law-making powers.

There have been repeated calls to reform the country's notoriously complex voting system, which is too complicated to be well understood even by Italians.

Monti also hinted his discontent with electoral laws in a press conference late on Monday, complaining that the "bonus rule" in the lower house could be disproportionate to the voting result.

The turnout of this election stood at 75 percent, five percent lower than that in 2008 election, partly due to cold weather in winter and partly due to voters' indifference or anger at a time of economic crisis.

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Email|Print|Comments(Editor:ZhangQian、Wang Jinxue)

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