Italian President Sergio Mattarella dissolved Parliament on Thursday, officially launching the campaign for the parliamentary elections expected in March. The head of state “signed the decree of dissolution of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies,” said a statement from the presidency.
Shortly after Mattarella dissolved parliament, the government announced that the poll will take place on Sunday, March 4.
Analysts are expecting a tight run race with none of the three major groupings looking set to emerge with an overall majority.
The right-wing alliance, composed of Forza Italia, led by Silvio Berlusconi, the right-wing Northern League and Fratelli d’Italia parties is credited with more than 35 % of voting intentions, although there are frequent disputes among the three parties.
With around 28% of voting intentions, the populists of the 5 Stars Movement , who already caused an upset when they won 25% of the votes in their first legislative elections in 2013, have repeatedly rejected the idea of forming a coalition with other parties.
In the third camp, the ruling Democratic Party (PD) of Matteo Renzi, is declining in the polls, which predict the party winning 25% of the vote.
If no majority emerges, Mr. Mattarella could ask the current prime minister Paolo Gentiloni to run the country’s day-to-day business until a new government can be formed or elections are held again.
The prospect of instability following the elections in a country that has had 64 governments since it became a Republic in 1946 may not come as a surprise but it would come against the backdrop of an economy that, although finally recovering from the great recession, is still saddled with Europe’s highest debt burden.
The elections also come amidst an influx of migrants on the country’s Mediterranean coast that has strained resources and led to increased support for right-wing populist parties.