Italy risks hung Parliament after cliffhanger election

With Italian vote counts almost complete, Italy seems to be headed for a political deadlock.

Updated: Feb 26, 2013, 14:39 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Rome: With Italian vote count almost complete, Italy seems to be headed for a political deadlock after no clear winner in sight raising the risk of a hung Parliament.

The elections crucial for country’s economic crisis and also the eurozone ended in an uncertainty with the Parliament’s lower house won by centre-left bloc led by Pier Luigi Bersani whereas former PM Silvio Berlusconi is expected to grab Senate’s control.

To add to it, comedian-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo’s anti-establishment movement that has worked well to harness the anger of austerity-hit Italians and ate into the vote share, notching the third place.

Prime Minister Mario Monti`s party just scored 10% votes, thanks to the tough measures taken by him to tackle economy.

Berlusconi`s party has meanwhile said he election was "too close to call".

Berlusconi and Bersani are pitted against each other in a neck-and-neck race and the final official results are not expected until daytime Tuesday, at earliest.

Italy, which is eurozone’s third largest economy, seems poised for a political as well as financial instability as it badly needs to put in place tough reforms to sail through its economic crisis and prevent a new round of global financial turmoil.

The decisions Italy`s government makes over the next several months promise to have a deep impact on whether Europe can decisively stem its financial crisis. As the eurozone`s third-largest economy, its problems can rattle market confidence in the whole bloc and analysts have worried it could fall back into old spending habits.

The unfolding uncertainty raised the possibility of new elections in the coming months, the worst possible outcome for markets that are looking to Italy to stay the course with painful but necessary reform.

The Italian election has been one of the most fluid in the last two decades thanks to the emergence of Grillo`s 5 Star Movement, which has throbbed with anger at politics as usual. The movement came against a backdrop of harsh austerity measures imposed by technocrat Premier Mario Monti — who has fared miserably in the elections.

While Grillo trailed the alliances of the two biggest mainstream forces, his movement looked set to become the biggest single party in Parliament`s lower house — a stunning result for a protest campaign that is just over three years old.

Many eligible voters didn`t cast ballots, and a low turnout is generally seen as penalizing established parties. The turnout, at under 75 percent — in a nation where it has historically been above 80 percent — was the lowest in national elections since the republic was formed after World War II.

Disgust with traditional party politics likely turned off voters, although snow and rain — this was Italy`s first winter time national vote — also could be a factor.

With Agency Inputs