Prime Minister Enrico Letta battles to save Italy from political chaos

Leader of the centre-left Democratic Party will urge moderates from Silvio Berlusconi’s party and waverers in the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo to keep the administration afloat

Rome

With chaos – never far away in Italian politics – descending on Rome once more, Wednesday will be make-or-break day for Prime Minister Enrico Letta, when he calls a confidence vote on his fragile coalition.

After the centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi announced at the weekend he wanted to pull the plug and head to the polls, cabinet ministers from the tycoon’s Pdl/Forza Italia party obeyed his command and resigned en masse. This suggested Mr Letta was about to lose his parliamentary majority, too.

Mr Letta, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, has a majority in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. But in the upper chamber, The Senate, he is around 20 seats short without the support of the centre-right.

He and the head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, will urge moderates from Berlusconi’s party and waverers in the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of Beppe Grillo to keep the administration afloat.

The consensus among Mr Letta, Mr Napolitano, political moderates and the Italian business community is that avoiding fresh elections and the uncertainty they would bring is vital to underpin the modest economic recovery – and prevent attacks by financial speculators.

There are some hopeful signs for Mr Letta. Cracks are appearing in  Berlusconi’s political grouping, with the five ministers he ordered to quit – despite not being in government himself – now showing signs of dissent.

There is a widespread feeling that Berlusconi’s actions reflect his fury at centre-left plans to expel him from parliament because of his tax fraud conviction rather than his opposition to VAT rises – the official reason. When Pdl figures as slavishly loyal to Berlusconi as incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano begin to question their master, the words “rats” and “sinking ship” come to mind.

Vincenzo Scarpetta, the Italy analyst of the Open Europe think-tank, said it was “tough but definitely not unrealistic” of Mr Letta to hope for 20 or so Senate defections from the parties of Berlusconi and Grillo.

“It suggests Letta does have a chance of winning the vote in the Senate, and staying in power with a different, albeit thinner, parliamentary majority – and after a rather substantial cabinet reshuffle,” Mr Scarpetta said.

But this would still amount to little more than a political sticking plaster. Such an unwieldy coalition probably would not last for long. Mr Letta would aim to introduce a few vital reforms – including changing the proportional representation system to deliver more stable government – before planning for elections early next year.

But the bleaker scenario is that Mr Letta loses the confidence vote. He would have to resign. It would then be up to President Napolitano to try and form an alternative government. If he fails to get another coalition up and running, he will have to call fresh elections, although not until 45 days after parliament is dissolved.

New elections would not only bring more uncertainty and financial instability, but also rule out much-needed changes to electoral law – making another inconclusive election result – and further instability – more likely.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices