The Italians have voted for a new Parliament that comprises the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) with 630 members; the Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repubblica) with 315 elected members, plus a few senators for life. And they have left Italy with a hung Parliament with no single party or contesting coalition in a position to obtain the 40% of seats needed to form a government. Multi party coalitions have long been a feature of Italian politics but it appears that the voters are disenchanted with traditional politicians and want a change. So a period of brokering deals is expected and it could be quite some time before a government is cobbled together. The Parliament is to meet on March 23 and President Sergio Mattarella is not expected to open formal talks on forming a government until early April.

The anti -immigrant sentiment, that has been stoked in many European democracies and the United States of America, as well as economic problems, were prominent influences determining the voting pattern that gave the anti -establishment Five Star Movement led by Luigi Di Maio around 32 percent of the vote- the highest for a single party although the alliance fashioned by former Prime Minister Berlusconi, which included his Forza Italia, Matteo Salvini;s Northern League and the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy secured around 37 percent of the vote—still short of the 40% needed to form a government. No single party is in a position to form the government. The result has been a blow to former leader, Matteo Renzi, whose center-left group, comprised of his Democratic Party and the liberal More Europe party could only muster 19% of the vote.

In terms of ideology the Five Star Movement stands for euro-scepticism, anti-corruption, anti-compulsory vaccination and direct democracy and has a huge support base among disaffected, unemployed and underemployed Italians. Its leader Luigi Di Maio, polled stronger than the more established parties with promises of a basic income to ensure a minimum salary is paid to all Italians, employed or not. The party is also anti immigrant and does not believe in coalitions. It is the one single party that will begin talks with the President on the formation of a new government. The Five Star movement attracted voters even though it has been under attack for its mismanagement of Rome and Turin, where it controls the mayor’s offices. Young voters view the Five Star candidates as earnest politicians who are worth a try. If it sticks to its proclaimed beliefs Five Star is unlikely to enter into a coalition. It

Italy therefore faces the following options now:--

  • The Five Star Movement forms a minority and consequently unstable government that will not last. Or, what has been so far unthinkable, it forms an alliance with the Northern League. Such a scenario would be a blow to the present idea of Europe as both the League and the Five Star Movement are anti-EU parties. Reports indicate that Matteo Salvini the leader of the Northern League has ruled out a coalition with the Five Star Movement

  • A coalition between Matteo Salvini’s Northern League and the Berlusconi forged alliance. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and alliance partner Fratelli d'Italia have already said that they would support Northern League leader Matteo Salvini for the office of prime minister. Berlusconi himself is barred because of the fraud cases he is implicated in but is playing the role of king maker. In his manifesto, Mr Salvini has pledged to renegotiate European Union treaties in order to regain political and monetary sovereignty. He has also spoken of a parallel currency.

  • A temporary government with fresh elections and no guarantee of a different outcome.

European officials argue that Italy's vast economic problems — including the largest public debt in the European Union and high youth unemployment — mean the country can't afford prolonged political uncertainty. The economy has taken center stage with unemployment in excess of 10%. The government has a huge debt, and public services are strained.

The elections have taken place at a time when racist, anti-Semitic and anti- immigrant sentiment has become widespread and violent in Italy. In one incident hundreds of hardcore Verona soccer fans chanted "Adolf Hitler is my friend" and sang of their team's embrace of the swastika. Anti-migrant rhetoric played a major role in shaping the campaign for the election. Hate crimes motivated by racial or religious bias in Italy have risen more than 10-fold, from 71 incidents in 2012 to 803 in 2016, according to police statistics. The five-year period corresponds with an explosion in migrant arrivals. Many observers believe this sentiment is being pandered to by political leaders. League leader Matteo Salvini has vowed to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants over a period of five years. The party says that if it is elected, it will force an estimated 400,000 migrants back to their countries of origin. It says the only antidote to racism is to control, regulate and limit immigration. Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that 600,000 migrants are in Italy illegally, calling them "a social bomb ready to explode because they are ready to commit crimes," and threatened to deport many.

The nature of political debate with its focus on immigrants, race and religion could see the coming years weakening the notion of a united Europe. The United Kingdom has already decided to leave the EU and talk to this effect formed part of the electoral campaign in Italy. But what is even more dire is the prospect that the sentiments that have demolished the traditional parties could suggest a resurrection of fascist tendencies that would work to the detriment of the entire notion of globalization and create an atmosphere of division and hatred at a time when the world needs to unite to fight the problems of poverty, hunger and above all terrorism and violence.