Italian Hung Parliament on Berlusconi Likely

Italy’s inconclusive election triggered renewed market jitters over Europe’s debt crisis as recession-scarred voters repudiated budget rigor and established former comedian Beppe Grillo as a political force.

In the four-way race, pre-election favorite Pier Luigi Bersani led for control of the lower house by less than a half percentage point. Silvio Berlusconi, the former premier fighting a tax-fraud conviction and charges of paying a minor for sex, called for a recount and won a blocking minority in the Senate. In its first national contest, Grillo’s group got 25 percent support and was probably the most-voted party in the lower house.

“The political situation across Europe is effectively a race between austerity and reforms on the one hand and the rise of populist movements on the other.” said Alberto Gallo, head of European macro credit research at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “Austerity is painful, and if reforms are not implemented in time, you run the risk of social unrest and populism. It hasn’t happened so far in Greece, it hasn’t happened in Portugal or Spain, but we are very close in Italy.”


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