In the Italian parliamentary system the job of empowering a political leader with the task of forming a new government belongs to the Head of State, President Mattarella. Traditionally, the President chooses someone from the single Party or coalition which has won the most seats. That means Luigi Di Maio of M5S or Matteo Salvini of the Lega. Luigi Di Maio, however, has already staked out his claim over the premiership. This would suggest Mattarella first sound out Di Maio and the M5S. But he could do the exact opposite and probably will as the PD has flatly rejected any deals with Di Maio and M5S. OK, but how long could it take to form a government?
Well, for one thing, don’t expect speed. Italians are slow to react. This is both a cultural as well as an institutional characteristic. While no one likes to loose, Italians simply cannot fathom loosing, which may be why they love proportional representation and low thresholds for getting into Parliament. It may take all of three weeks (from Sunday the 4th) just to come up with the names of the two “Presidents” of the House and Senate. These people represent their respective assemblies and are chosen for their “impartiality”; they are also vested with the role and powers of a “guarantor”, ensuring parliamentary rules are applied and followed. So do not expect a government before April, if at all. The EU has given the Italians until May to complete and finalize their “Def” for 2018. This Documento di economia e finanza is a long synonym for, the Budget.
The fun will begin, however, in the event no one is able to form a government. In such a case the scenarios are many with none being clear cut or well chartered. The most probable, given EU jitters over Italy’s mammoth national debt is a Presidential Government, i.e. one decided by Mattarella from what currently available in the recently elected Parliament.
If even Mattarella were to fail, “snap” elections could be called, subject to what said above as to speed. However, without going back to a first-past-the-post, winner take all system perhaps raising the threshold for entry into Parliament to as much as 10%, Italians cannot be sure their votes will succeed in granting any of the contenders the majority needed to form a government.