ROME -- The normally politically charged Italian public has shown a pronounced lack of interest in next week's national elections that politicians claim could be crucial to the country's often chaotic government.
"The political campaign going on is boring," said a Roman pharmacist, Guido Alberti, the other day as he walked with his 4-year-old son in the Piazza Navonna. Nearby, about two dozen members of the Trotskyite Socialist Revolutionary League were holding an antigovernment, antipope and anti-Reagan rally while about 70 armed members of the Carabinieri, or national police, kept an eye on things. "What is there to be excited about?" Alberti asked. "We all know that when the vote is counted we will be right back where we started."
As Italy's six-week election campaign moves into its final days, Alberti is not alone in his perception that there will be little or no change after national voting June 14 and 15.
A poll last week by the Telemark organization estimated that the traditionally dominant Christian Democratic Party would get 27 to 31 percent of the vote, followed by the perennial second- and third-place finishers, the Communist Party with 24 to 29 percent and the Socialist Party with 12 to 17 percent.
The Telemark poll, conducted for the influential Rome daily La Repubblica, indicated that once again there is little risk that the guiding equation of Italian politics since the end of World War II will be altered: The conservative, church-supported Christian Democrats will attract roughly a third of Italian voters; the Communists will get just under a third; and the so-called smaller "lay parties" led by the Socialists will pick up close to a third.
This equilibrium has dictated that the country be run either by the Christian Democrats -- as was the case for the first 30 years or so of the postwar Italian Republic -- or by a multiparty coalition dominated by the Christian Democrats.
Given the fact that over the past 40 years the Italian electorate has shifted its political preferences by only a few percentage points at most, no analysts expect any dramatic shifts to occur in this election.
As a result, the current electoral campaign has not focused on policy differences among the 10 most important parties but rather on possible postelection deals that might be cut among the dominant parties to form a government.
The reality of Italian politics today is that no one party can expect a clear-cut majority. Since 1981, when for the first time in the postwar era a non-Christian Democrat -- Republican Party leader Giovanni Spadolini -- became prime minister, Italy has been governed by multiparty coalitions dominated by Christian Democrats.
Cooperation among the five leading noncommunist parties -- Christian Democrats, Socialists, Republicans, Liberals and Social Democrats -- eventually led to the uncharacteristically durable government of Socialist Party chief Bettino Craxi. It lasted 3 1/2 years.
A new coalition along the lines of the previous one is by no means certain. Christian Democrats and Socialists are bitterly divided over who should head the next coalition. The Christian Democrats insist that it is their turn to lead. That insistence, in fact, brought down the Craxi government and forced this week's elections. So far, Craxi and some of his smaller party allies have not agreed to the Social Democrats' demands.
"There are only two types of coalitions possible," Ciriaco de Mita, the Christian Democratic Party secretary, said last week. "Either there is a coalition that is formed with the Christian Democrats, or there is a coalition formed with the Communists."
One of the Christian Democrats' chief campaign strategems has been to revive the fear of Communist participation in the next government.
Since the campaign began, the Christian Democrats have repeatedly accused Craxi's Socialists of toying with the idea of forming a coalition with the Communists. Craxi, a staunch anticommunist, has repeatedly denied the charge.
Two weeks ago, Spadolini's small but influential Republican Party accused the Christian Democrats of considering a pact with the Communists along the lines of the "historic compromise" that was considered in the 1970s. The Communists and the Christian Democrats have denied having any interest in reviving the experiment that, in the end, brought both of them electoral losses.
"The electoral exercise we are going through, I'm afraid, will change very little," said one Roman newspaper editor privately last week. "In the end, after all the votes are counted, we will find ourselves right back where we were before the election -- with no one having a majority and the only government possible being one that is supported by a wide range of parties, much like the the five-party coalition that has ruled since 1981."