Impossible Italy: Voters react to austerity by making situation worse

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Italians voting in last month's elections produced a result that has left the country in a politically impossible situation.

The "Italy Common Good" coalition led by the Democratic Party received the most popular votes, but only 29.5 percent. Second was the party of discredited former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with 29.1 percent. Third was the Five Star Movement headed by comedian Beppe Grillo with 25.5 percent. It can't govern and so far refuses to even participate in a coalition government with the Democrats or Mr. Berlusconi, whom it considers to be a bad joke. The party that led the previous government, headed by Mario Monti, whom the rest of the Europeans considered to be reasonable, received only 10.5 percent of the vote.

The popular vote was clearly a statement against the austerity policies pursued by Mr. Monti. In effect, 54.6 percent of the popular votes, those for Mr. Berlusconi and for Mr. Grillo, constituted a protest at the polls by the Italian electorate against the measures imposed by Mr. Monti as prime minister. His coalition's low vote total, as well as the rest of the vote spread, probably rule him out as a coalition prime minister even if the rest of Europe sees that as a reasonable solution to the current political logjam.

In the meantime, Mr. Monti continues to preside over the mess. Italian unemployment stands at 11.7 percent. Italy is already experiencing difficulty in borrowing the large sums of money it needs to keep the government afloat and to meet its debt obligations.

There is little or no expectation that new elections, which will come if no other solution is found, if no traditional Italian coalition is finally formed, will produce a more workable outcome. In the meantime, Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy after Germany and France, is showing itself not only to be politically ungovernable, but also unable to meet its obligations through austerity to a degree to reset itself on a necessary, solvent financial course.

This current situation is not good for Italy, for Europe, nor for the United States. National leadership is clearly missing. It might make a good opera. It does not make for a healthy world economy.



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