The results have created the remarkable possibility that Italy could find itself next week without a government or a pope.
That instability rippled across the Atlantic. As details of the election became clear through the day, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 200 points, or about 1.5 percent, in a potent reminder of how sensitive markets remain to events in the euro zone. The currency region’s financial crisis has ebbed in recent months, but only on the assumption that political leaders would follow through on promised economic policies — something the Italian results may throw into doubt.
There was no clear victor in the election held Sunday and Monday. There were, however, losers. The left-leaning Democratic Party, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, a mild-mannered former industry minister, appeared likely to barely win the lower house of Parliament, but fell far short of expectations.
Bersani, 61, is weighed down with far-left partners such asNichi Vendola, a gay, ex-communist southern governor that the Italian press once dubbed “the white Obama.” Vendola once assessed himself to The Washington Post as “beloved.” He is less cherished by the potential partners Bersani needs to form a coalition, setting the stage for yet another collapse-prone Italian government.
“We have a problem of governability,” said the party’s spokesman, Roberto Seghetti. The banner headline on Il Messaggero on Tuesday read: “Ungovernability wins.”
The smallest electorate since World War II sent a clear message of dissatisfaction to the country’s caretaker prime minister, Mario Monti, who was advised by David Axelrod, top campaign strategist for President Obama. Monti, an international darling for his technical government’s emphasis on responsibility and personal austerity, proved a political flop at home and won less than 10 percent of the vote, dashing his hopes to finish a mission that counted Obama among its supporters.
Critics of Berlusconi were sure that the onetime cruise ship singer was gone from national politics for good. Berlusconi, whose last public appearances before the election included a favorable comparison between the Sicilian mafia and the Italian judicial system, had promised to forgive the building of illegal houses and personally pay about 4 billion euros worth of property taxes for Italian citizens. He also expertly benefited from the fragmentation of the Italian political universe.