Hello from Rome.
Based on where things currently stand, once parliamentary groups will have formed and consulted by President Napolitano, I believe there are three potential scenarios:
1) A Bersani minority government receives sufficient support from a majority of senators. It is fundamental to understand though that a Bersani, or any government, would need to win a confidence vote - a majority is required even to install a minority government. M5S has reiterated that it will not give any government a confidence vote, and PD rules out an alliance with the centre-right. An abstention is akin to a no-vote, and President Napolitano is unlikely to give Bersani, or anyone else, a mandate to form a government unless after consulting with parliamentary groups he believes there is a majority.
2) There aren’t the numbers to form an alliance or a minority government. In this case, Napolitano would likely resign early and a Monti/technocratic government continue in the interim. The reason for this is that a president at the end of their term cannot dissolve parliament and call elections. Parliament would then need to elect a new president. The newly elected president would at that point consult with parliamentary groups, and if s/he too cannot see a feasible majority would need to dissolve parliament and call an election.
The strategy of the PD (the Bersani front at least) seems to evolve around these two options: a minority government or an election in the short-term with Bersani once again at the helm. In taking this road, I believe Bersani is flirting with fire. The PD leader is underestimating the level of support the M5S could hit in an election held in the short-term (and the implications of this) and the reasons why the PD fell short at the polls. A majority may well emerge from a new election (especially if held under a changed voting system), but it is far from certain that it would be to PD’s liking.
3) There is a third scenario - the newly elected president, in addition to exploring majorities within the current parties would likely also explore the possibilities of a caretaker government led by someone else. This option would buy time, which in practical terms means elections in a year or so, with different party leaders. A caretaker government though, like a minority government, would require a confidence vote.
The key factors in the above scenarios:
- where M5S and PDL would stand in front of scenario 3) (proposals for a caretaker government). While the M5S has made clear its views in terms of alliances, it hasn’t yet said where it stands on a return to the polls. My view is that they would benefit from a PD-PDL alliance and an election held in the short-term, but the more time passes the more the size of their potential support becomes unclear as the economic and political/party context were central to its success. To date, PDL has called for an alliance with the PD, and failing that a return to the polls (with a changed voting law). The centre-right’s views on a caretaker government are unknown, and would probably depends on names put forward. While I also believe the PDL wouldn’t benefit from standing against a renewed PD (why Berlusconi has said an immediate return to the polls is the only alternative to a PD-PDL alliance), at the same time its performance at the polls wasn’t stellar so the option to force an immediate vote isn’t an obvious one.
- the role of the presidents - both Napolitano and his successor will do, in my opinion, everything in their power to avoid a return to the polls in the short-term.
- internal PD dynamics - while the Bersani front is angling for a minority government or a “second chance” at the polls as a Plan B, the party could coalesce around scenario 3) knowing that in future, with a new leader, it could stand a better chance at the polls. On this, as aside note, I recommend reading a note published by Matteo Renzi earlier today (in Italian).
In short, what happens next will be determined by both the politics, and the parliamentary and constitutional process.