Italian coalition dealing won't be pretty

5 March 2018, 05:45

A party founded by a comedian had the last laugh in Italian politics.

Except, it's not really funny.

It's a mess, with no party or coalition-including the triumphant 5-Star Movement, securing the majority it needs to govern.

Days, weeks (let's hope it's not months like in Germany) of horse-trading are now inevitable as the parties try to do deals.

And to add to the complication, the party with the most votes - 5-Star - is still not committing to getting into bed with anyone else.

Still, 5-Star's result delivered more than a celebration party for the movement founded just a few years ago. It delivered a bloody nose to the centre, to the traditional parties of Italy. This has to be a wake-up call.

That an anti-establishment, eurosceptic party headed by a 31-year-old relative political novice (certainly by Italian standards, where they like the politicians seasoned) says a lot.

Not just about dissatisfaction with the state of play in Italy, with the economy, with the lack of jobs for young people, with Italy's ongoing difficulties with immigration.

But maybe just with politicians themselves.

At 5-Star's final rally of the election no-one I spoke to mentioned issues. They mentioned trust - or rather lack of trust-in politicians.

The perception of the "old guard", of the old or traditional parties, is that they are at the very least dishonest, at the very worst corrupt.

Italy is - it's now there in the black and white of numbers- politically fractured, and the election now poses more questions than it answers.

Who will team up with who to form a government?

Who will the prime minister be?

When will a government be in place?

There are myriad options for pacts.

How about a grand coalition of the centre-right and centre-left? Problem is, with talk of the possible resignation of the ruling Democratic Party's leader Matteo Renzi after a crushing result, the left itself is in turmoil.

Moreover, a left-right pact could be volatile given the right's bloc includes parties far right of the centre, never mind left.

A possible alternative is a centre-right coalition - which looks like being mathematically out in front after the votes are all counted but without the majority needed - courting over politicians who would help them get to the finish line.

It could take time to build and could prove unpredictable over time.

Or there's the nightmare for the EU scenario. Eurosceptic 5-Star teaming up with the eurosceptic League. The signs are they would have the numbers but it would leave two eurosceptic parties in charge of the eurozone's third largest economy.

None of the above sound wholly attractive. But coalitions are never ideal. They are compromises - ask Angela Merkel.

It's where Italy is now: on the road to give and take to get a government.

It's probably not going to be pretty.