The big news today was Beppe Grillo confirming that the M5S would not support a Bersani government with a confidence vote, but is only willing to back specific measures (from any party) on a case-by-case basis and with which the Movement agrees with.
Grillo’s announcement isn’t a surprise: 1) the M5S stood on an anti-mainstream parties and politics platform. An alliance with the PD would politically be in contradiction to this 2) a short-term PD-PDL alliance is likely to benefit the M5S further and 3) a number of M5S supporters are former centre-right voters - these wouldn’t take kindly to an alliance with the left.
Beyond the politics, Grillo’s announcement is significant as it fundamentally could shut the door on a minority government. An abstention in Italy’s Senate in a confidence vote would be akin to a no-vote, meaning a Bersani government wouldn’t have the majority required to install a government. Italy’s President, Napolitano, is unlikely to send Bersani to parliament to seek a confidence vote unless he believes there is a majority.
If the M5S doesn’t budge, Bersani would fundamentally be in a lose-lose-lose situation: 1) he can seek an alliance with Berlusconi, which would significantly upset his voter base 2) he could resign and 3) he could stay put, and stand again in new elections.
Meanwhile, Silvio Berlusconi is playing a waiting game - the PDL leader is convinced that Bersani will be forced to seek an alliance with the centre-right in order to govern. Earlier today, Berlusconi posted a video statement in which he states that any agreement needs to ensure tax cuts and institutional reforms, and that governability and an agreed plan of action needs to come before alliances. Voices within the PDL suggest that Berlusconi is keen to seek an agreement that lasts a full parliamentary term - he believes that any election in the short-term would likely benefit Grillo.
There are currently three scenarios which are playing out: 1) a PD-PDL deal 2) of course, Grillo could choose to put the politics to one side for the “good of the country” and 3) new elections.
On the possibility of new elections, it is worth keeping in mind the following factors, which together would imply that voting won’t happen within the next six months (even if a government cannot be formed):
1) the new parliament sits in 2-3 weeks, and needs to elect presidents for each chamber, and parliamentary groups need to be formed.
2) President Napolitano consults with all stakeholders - presidents of the chambers, parliamentary groups and parties to explore if there is a parliamentary majority around a potential government/s.
3) whatever happens, the current president’s terms is ending and Napolitano cannot dissolve parliament and call new elections - parliament needs to elect a new president.
4) internal party dynamics - should Bersani be unable to form a government and new elections needed it is unlikely Bersani would lead the PD into these elections - this means: party congress, primaries, selection of candidates etc. The same on the centre-right - would Berlusconi stand again? What would Monti & Co. do?
In short, it is fundamental to understand both the politics and the constitutional and parliamentary context within which all this is taking place.
A week may be a long time in politics, but in Italian constitutional terms, a week could last a year.