Italians could return to the polls after coalition talks fail

Italians may be going back to the polls after the failure of repeated attempts to form a coalition government just two months after an inconclusive presidential vote in March.

Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella on Monday suggested putting a “neutral” government in place to run the country while parties continue to haggle over a power-sharing deal, according to Italian news agency ANSA.

Mattarella said that a non-aligned administration could be a stopgap solution to the country’s political stalemate after a third round of consultation on the make-up of a coalition government failed to produce results.

He said that the interim administration would step down if the parties reached a conclusion, but if they didn’t, a new election should be held by the end of the year.

“If the parties were not to reach any agreement [in the coming months], the neutral government should conclude its work at the end of December for elections to follow immediately,” Mattarella said, as reported by ANSA.

In March Italy’s general election threw the country into disarray as no one party took a decisive share of the vote.

Eschewing established political parties, Italian voters instead flocked to the far-right Liga (League) party, and the anti-establishment M5S (Five Star Movement) party, driven in part by anti-immigrant sentiment, and overall dissatisfaction with the previous, centrist government.

The M5S party, which surprised many by taking the largest individual share of the vote, has not been able to broker a power-sharing agreement with either the left-leaning Democratic Party, or a coalition of right-wing parties which includes former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Liga party, the other surprise big winners of the night.

Following the election, Fabio Bordignon, a political scientist at the University of Urbino Carlo Bo, interpreted the populist parties’ strong performance as “a reflection of a strong political and economic malaise that affects Italy.”

Italians have becoming increasingly frustrated after years of unprecedented migration and continued economic woes. Seizing on this dissatisfaction, right-wing parties had touted an anti-immigration agenda, with Liga pledging to put “Italians first” and advocating for mass expulsions.

Since the vote in March, the parties have not been able to lock down a power-sharing agreement, leading to the stalemate.

League leader Matteo Salvini and Five-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio had previously suggested a new poll in early July, ARSA reported, but Mattarella objected, saying that holding an election during the summer would exclude voters who may be vacationing.