Berlusconi fights for his political life as Italian deadlock raises fresh euro fears

Prospect of new elections in eurozone’s most  indebted economy just one month after last poll

Milan

Italy was looking likely to become Europe’s next big problem last night as the eurozone’s most indebted economy wavered between another term of stop-gap government or a financially perilous return to the polls. 

With the anti-establishment kingmaker Beppe Grillo failing to back the idea of a new caretaker premier  appointed by the head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, the prospect of a speedy resolution to the country’s month-long political stalemate is almost non-existent.

The crisis began when the centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani failed to secure a majority in the senate in the February general election, despite winning a majority in the lower house. As a result Italy has limped along without an administration, and now looks like having to stage fresh elections.

Any return to the polls would increase uncertainty in financial markets already jittery following protracted negotiations over a bailout for Cyprus.

Vincenzo Scarpetta, Italy analyst for the Open Europe think-tank, said: “There’s no doubt new elections would be the worst of all worlds.  With no one able to dissolve parliament until a new president is appointed in May, there couldn’t be a general election before the autumn. This would bring huge uncertainty to the markets.”

The prospect of another technocratic government would be a more favourable option, said Loredana Federico, a UniCredit research economist. “So long as Italy does not undo any significant part of the Monti reforms, markets should remain relatively stable,” he added.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former premier and head of the centre-right coalition, railed yesterday against the notion of another technocrat government, saying he wanted either a deal with Mr Bersani or fresh elections. 

It’s no secret that the media mogul dreads the formation of a government in which his PDL (People of Freedom) party plays little or no part, for the simple reason that a head of steam is growing among Mr Berlusconi’s opponents for him to be expelled from parliament under a decades-old law that bars businessmen who have benefited from state subsidies from sitting in either chamber.

The news magazine MicroMega has collected a quarter of a million signatures calling for Mr Berlusconi to be expelled from parliament. The editor, Paolo Flores d’Arcais, said: “The key to making Italy governable again is the permanent ostracism of Silvio Berlusconi.”

Most observers say that without  parliamentary protection, the mogul, currently involved in three criminal cases, would be left fatally exposed.

Justin Frosini, a constitutional law expert at Bologna University, said: “Berlusconi is more than just nervous; he knows that if his opponents – the centre-left and Grillo’s party – unite under a caretaker premier, he will be powerless and could well be kicked out of parliament.” If new elections were held, Mr Berlusconi could stage an unlikely comeback after an opinion poll from SWG Institute revealed that his popularity has risen since February.

The survey showed Mr Berlusconi’s coalition leading with 32.5 per cent compared with 29.6 per cent for Mr Bersani’s bloc and 24.8 per cent for Mr Grillo. 

“Grillo has now come to a fork in the road. He can either support a technocrat premier chosen by Napolitano – or send Italy back to the polls and take the blame for the failure to form a government,” said Dr Frosini.

But in the medium- to long-term, some observers said it was hard to see a way past the dysfunctional state in which Italian politics found itself.

 James Walston, a veteran Italian political pundit at the American University of Rome, said there had been political crises in Italy before. “But nothing like this, and there appears to be no way out of it,” he said.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
people
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Year 6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

£50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering