Our endorsement for the Italian general election

Italians go to the polls on Sunday and Monday amidst a difficult economic scenario at home and in the Eurozone. While the reforms taken by current Prime Minister Mario Monti to sort out the country’s fiscal crisis have had a positive effect –although much remains to be done on that front–, he has failed to put together a broad coalition to win the election and has decided to pander to socially conservative segments of Italian society.

Mr Monti’s centrist coalition is being challenged by the centre-left Democratic Party, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, and by the right-wing People of Freedom coalition, led –once again– by former PM Silvio Berlusconi.

There’s no doubt in our minds that the worst possible result for Italy –and the Eurozone– would be a Berlusconi victory. During Berlusconi’s years as Primer Minister, the Italian economy stalled. Mr Berlusconi failed to govern in a fiscally responsible way and much of Italy’s current economic malaise could be attributed to his disastrous administrations. But economic incompetence is not the only area in which Mr Berlusconi failed miserably. His governments were plagued with corruption, authoritarianism and scandals that made Italy the laughing stock of Europe. He should be resoundingly rejected by Italian voters.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Mr Bersani’s centre-left Democratic Party and its allies offer some refreshing socially liberal proposals in a country that remains anchored in the past on many fronts –most notably on LGBT rights. On the economic front, however, we are concerned by Mr Bersani’s left-wing allies, which don’t seem to be ready to embrace the kind of reforms necessary to control the country’s fiscal crisis. All in all, we believe Mr Bersani is a centrist figure who will realize the country cannot afford uncontrolled spending and fiscal profligacy (as many on the left-wing of his coalition would like to see).

Another voice in this campaign has been comedian Beppe Grillo and his populist “Five Star Movement,” which is polling third (above Mr Monti’s coalition). Despite his strong poll numbers, we can’t take Mr Grillo’s movement seriously. Its populist themes are more in tone with a protest party than with a serious governing coalition, and populism is the last thing Italy needs right now (it has had an enough dose of it with Mr Berlusconi’s administrations).

 So who deserves our vote of confidence? We believe the best result for Italy would be a centre-left/centrist government with Mr Bersani as Prime Minister and Mr Monti as finance minister. For this to happen, Mr Bersani’s coalition shouldn't get an overall majority, that way he would need Mr Monti’s allies to form a government (of course Mr Berlusconi should be relegated to a second place below the centre-left coalition too). Another acceptable scenario would be a centre-left majority government, although this would make less likely the implementation of the economic reform agenda Italy desperately needs. But still, this is a preferable outcome to a Berlusconi victory or a Berlusconi-led minority government.   

In the end, we urge Italian voters to give Berlusconi a slap in the face at the polling booth once and for all. After years of incompetence and corruption, he surely deserves it.