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Main focus of Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Political stalemate in Italy

Pier Luigi Bersani could be Italy's next prime minister. (© dapd)

The centre-left alliance led by Pier Luigi Bersani has won Italy's parliamentary election by a razor-thin margin against Berlusconi's camp. But both Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo's protest movement will be able to block Bersani's policies in the Senate. The jittery Italians have voted against Europe and turned the country into an unpredictable partner, commentators criticise, putting their hopes in new elections.


Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Grand coalition, new elections the only way out

Both in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, Bersani's centre-left coalition has a razor-thin lead against Berlusconi's centre-right alliance. The only way out of this stalemate is a grand coalition, the liberal-conservative business daily Il Sole 24 Ore admonishes: "The formation of a leftist minority government is unrealistic. ... The international community would not be keen on the idea. This leaves the option of a grand coalition. This is generally regarded as taboo. [Bersani's] PD and [Berlusconi's] PDL striking a deal for governing the country together? Impossible. But an agreement could help to push through a number of reforms, first and foremost the reform of the electoral law, so that fresh elections can be called after a reasonable amount of time has passed. But if the deal [between the parties] is simply aimed at keeping things afloat, we may as well start coming to terms with the definitive triumph of Grillo [who obtained the third-largest number of votes]. By contrast a transition pact with clearly defined goals would be a sign that the chronically diseased system is getting ready to strike back." (26/02/2013)


De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Europe is the big loser

Above all Europe has come out the loser in the Italian elections, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant writes: "Instead of giving a mandate for further reforms, as the EU countries had hoped, Italy's voters have given their leaders an impossible signal: forwards, but backwards at the same time. ... The advance of Berlusconi and Grillo's protest party must be a source of concern for  Europe's leaders, also because in Spain too the poisonous combination of anger at the austerity measures and corruption is becoming visible. Until now the Italians and the Spaniards have always had a positive image of the European Union: they were glad that Brussels was ready to keep an eye on their not always trustworthy politicians. This mood is now slowly changing as a consequence of rising unemployment. That will put  increased pressure on Brussels to slacken the austerity measures." (26/02/2013)


Hospodářské noviny - Czech Republic

Election result unnerves Italy and Europe

The tie in the Italian elections is disappointing, not just for Italy but for Europe as a whole, the liberal daily Hospodářské noviny comments: "Never before has the rest of Europe followed events in Italy so closely. It's clear that a reform government in the highly indebted country is a prerequisite for the recovery of the Eurozone. But the outcome has only deepened the country's instability. The euro has gone down. ... The shares on European stock exchanges fell and gobbled up all the profits that had been made in the course of the day. The fears of investors result from the fact that discredited ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi now has the chance to have his say in politics again. Without the Senate under its control the centre-left alliance won't have enough power to push through reforms. [Its leader] Bersani may become prime minister, but with very limited room for manoeuvre. ... This means Italy, the third-largest economy in the Eurozone, remains an unpredictable partner." (26/02/2013)


Die Presse - Austria

Berlusconi blocks sensible moderate right

The only thing that can save Italy is a stable centre-right government, the liberal-conservative daily Die Presse comments. But it believes there can be no hope of that as long as Berlusconi is in the running: "Berlusconi, who has always had his eye on what he can get out of his position, will go down in history as a destructive, blocking influence. Despite his remarkable results in these elections, he has also harmed his own party. If Berlusconi hadn't run, a new power could have formed that is capable of building a coalition with Monti to the right of the centre, one the European People's Party would not have to be ashamed of. Italy needs a respectable moderate right option with economic expertise, an alternative to Bersani's backward-looking centre-left alliance. But as long as Berlusconi's up to his antics, there can be no chance of that. Poor Italy." (26/02/2013)


BBC - United Kingdom

Grillo will have a say

The protest Five Star Movement under comedian Beppe Grillo has emerged from the Italian parliamentary elections as the third-strongest force. The BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt is impressed by this success, especially since Grillo managed it "without giving any Italian TV interviews. His is an internet-based campaign. He draws momentum from the crowds and the streets. ... This comedian could become a player, a broker in determining Italy's next government.  He himself will not be in parliament. He is barred from standing, having been convicted of manslaughter for a car accident. So the next parliament may have 70 or 80 inexperienced MPs without the guidance of the man who has built this movement. Mr Grillo could well have a say over Italy's future. He may demand electoral reform as the price of supporting any coalition government." (25/02/2013)


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