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POWER DRIVE

Apart from proving the staying power of the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian elections have yielded no conclusive result. The votes have gone to four major players in the elections, but not enough to make anyone capable of forming the government. Technically, Pier Luigi Bersani and his Centre-Left Democratic Party have the largest share of the cake, thanks to the bonus votes that have come his way in the lower house of parliament. But, given the convoluted logic of Italy’s electoral law that gives bonus points in the upper house on the basis of regional performance, Mr Bersani cannot hope to dominate the senate. Mr Berlusconi’s win in the Lombardy region has negated Mr Bersani’s chances there. As in Israel, where the centrist Yesh Atid party of the newcomer showman, Yair Lapid, caused a major upset, in Italy, the Five Star Movement of the comedian and satirist, Beppe Grillo, has altered political calculations. Like Mr Lapid, Mr Grillo has won the overwhelming support of the change-seekers in his country who not only want corrupt politicians to go, but also want politicians to focus on the needs of the people — that is, the need to end austerity measures which are intended to bail out countries in crisis in the Eurozone. It was this austerity drive, and not Mr Berlusconi’s peccadillos, that was behind his fall. It is also responsible for the unpopularity of Mario Monti’s government. But none of the vote-seekers seem to have any solution to the problem, including Mr Grillo, who has gone no further than promising a referendum.

The political uncertainty in Italy, and the unpopularity of austerity measures there, have unsettled the European Union leadership. After France, Britain and now Italy, people in Germany too may start expressing their opposition to austerity — a possibility that must be giving nightmares to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who would soon be facing elections herself.