Politicians and political commentators in Italy today expressed fears that the country will become more difficult to govern following a sharp swing away from the dominant Christian Democrats in elections Sunday and yesterday.
Share prices on the Milan stock exchange fell by more than eight percentage points in a day of hectic trading. Dealers feared that the lack of a decisive victory in the election for any one party could complicate moves to agree on a common economic program to cut public spending and reduce an inflation rate of more than 16 percent.
Final results from the elections confirmed Communist claims that for the first time since World War II it would theoretically be possible to form a coalition of left and center parties without Christian Democratic participation. In practice, however, the small parties have made clear that they have no wish to join a Communist-led coalition government.
Commentators predicted that protracted negotiations on the formation of a new government would to the recreation of a five-party, center-left coalition. The balance of power within the coalition is likely to change in favor of the smaller parties.
Among possible candidates for prime minister are the Socialist Party secretary, Bettino Craxi, and the leader of the Republican Party, Giovanni Spadolini. The two parties gained votes, but each has proposed radically different policies for solving Italy's economic problems. The Republicans have demanded tougher austerity measures while the Socialists have called for programs to boost employment.
Spadolini in 1981 became Italy's first non-Christian Democrat prime minister since World War II when he led two governments for a total of 15 months. In proportional terms, his party emerged as the biggest winner in the election, going up from 3 percent to 5.1 percent in the voting for the Chamber of Deputies.
The Socialists, who provoked the election in the first place in the hope of cashing in on a general swing to the left in southern Europe, failed to do as well as they had hoped. They gained 1.6 percentage points in the vote for a total of 11.4 percent--leaving them still far behind the Christian Democrats with 32.9 percent and the Communist Party with 29.9 percent.
It was the first time in nine successive elections since 1948 that the Christian Democratic share of the vote dropped below 38 percent. The party's losses were even more dramatic in regions such as the northeast and the south where they have traditionally been strongest.
Leading Italian newspapers today expressed concern at the rise in support for the neofascist Italian Social Movement, which gained 1.6 percentage points to consolidate its position as Italy's fourth largest party. The electoral success coincided with the 100th anniversary of the birthday of the Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini.
The neofascists, considered "nondemocratic" by the other political parties, have traditionally been excluded from all negotiations on forming a new government.
The Rome newspaper Il Messaggero described the result as "a protest against scandals, corruption, inefficiency, sclerosis in the functioning of the state." Practically all newspapers predicted a further weakening in the authority of the government at a time when decisive action is needed.