Swiss press gives Italy’s voters poor marks

Results trickle in from Italy's nationwide elections on Monday Keystone

The outcome of Italy’s parliamentary elections prompted pessimistic editorials in Swiss newspapers on Tuesday. They consider the neighbouring country close to chaos after populist politicians thwarted a clear victory for the centre-left.

This content was published on February 26, 2013

With most votes counted, Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left bloc won the majority in the lower house of parliament but has failed to secure a majority in the senate.

The leader of the centre-right bloc, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, conceded the lower house vote but needs control of both houses to govern effectively.

A protest movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo won 25 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile, a bloc led by current Prime Minister Mario Monti came in a poor fourth, with about 10 per cent of the ballot.

The outcome of the election, which comes amid a deep recession and tough austerity measures, was so close that the margin of victory given by the interior ministry was less than one per cent in both houses of parliament.

News of the results led to a sharp drop for Italian financial markets.

Switzerland’s prestigious Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Tuesday saw “destructive energy” at work in the elections, with two prominent politicians – Berlusconi and Grillo - more interested in self-promotion and protest instead of coming up with proposals to tackle key political issues, such as the future of Europe.

“The leading politicians made a lot promises in the election campaign, particularly to lower taxes. But they did not say how to compensate the drop in revenue. Nevertheless, answers are needed now.”

The NZZ warns those who voted for Berlusconi and Grillo that they won’t get away easily with the simple excuse that politicians are irresponsible beings who will do as they please regardless of election outcomes.

Anger, frustration, fog

The Italy correspondent of the Bund and Tages-Anzeiger newspapers describes the election outcome as a “victory for angry citizens”, with other European Union members as the main losers.

“It is a triumph for illusionists,” she says in her editorial.

The good results for Grillo and Berlusconi are also a sign of frustration among the voters, she continues.

“Grillo promised a revolution and he delivered. But it is not clear what the price is for that.”

In a similar vein, the Basler Zeitung newspaper concludes in its editorial that Italy is heading towards “chaos, a situation which does not help the country as a whole nor the euro zone.”

Tuesday’s editorial in the Geneva-based Le Temps focuses on French politics and President François Hollande.

But a front-page cartoon by the renowned satirist Chappatte shows a couple looking at the Vatican basilica in Rome from a bridge over the Tiber River. She says: “There is white smoke in the election of the new pope”, while he adds, “and fog for the parliament.”

The main Italian-language Swiss daily Corriere del Ticino says Grillo’s populist campaign and decision to tap into public anger with an anti-austerity movement is one thing, “but the music changes once in parliament. The success of Cinque Stelle [Five Stars] is wasted if there isn’t some calm and reason now.”

The editorialist argues that compromise is badly needed. “It is now up to the protest movement to produce practicable ideas to put the crisis in the past.”

The Tuesday editions of the two tabloids Blick and Le Matin limit themselves to basic news coverage of events in Switzerland’s neighbour to the south.

“Will Italy throw Europe into turmoil?" a headline asks bluntly.

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