ROME – Italy faced political paralysis Monday as near-complete results in crucial national elections showed no clear winner and raised the possibility of a hung parliament. The uncertainty bodes ill for the nations efforts to pass the tough reforms it needs to snuff out its economic crisis and prevent a new round of global financial turmoil.
The chaotic election scenes in the eurozones third-biggest economy quickly snaked around globe – sending the Dow Jones index plunging more than 200 points in its sharpest drop since November and causing Tokyos red-hot benchmark index to sink nearly 2 percent at open.
A major factor in the murky result was the astonishing vote haul of comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo, whose 5 Star Movement has capitalized on a wave of voter disgust with the ruling political class.
That has coupled with the surprise return as a political force of billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who was driven from the premiership at the end of 2011, to roil the Italian ballot. Berlusconis alliance was neck-and-neck with center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersanis coalition for both Parliaments lower house and the Senate.
The decisions that Italys government makes over the next several months promise to have a deep impact on whether Europe can decisively stem its financial crisis. As the eurozones third-largest economy, it has problems that can rattle market confidence in the whole bloc, and analysts have worried it could fall back into old spending habits.
While Italys postwar history has largely been one of revolving-door governments, it has never seen a hung parliament. Experts said thats likely to change now.
This has never happened before, said James Walston, a political science professor at American University of Rome. He predicted such a swirl of political chaos that new elections may need to be called as soon as the new legislature chooses the nations next president this spring.