The party led by Italian comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo could be the kingmaker for a new governing coalition. His group came from nowhere to secure about 25 percent of the vote. Grillo did not seek office.

File photo by ANDREW MEDICHINI • Associated Press ,

Italian election sets off political deadlock and triggers market jitters

  • Article by: Anthony Faiola
  • Washington Post
  • February 27, 2013 - 12:18 AM

– Highly inconclusive Italian election results rekindled fears of more debt troubles in Europe on Tuesday, rocking stock markets and sending fresh jitters through global commodity and bond markets.

Italian voters delivered a stinging rebuke to the nation’s political class and to the painful economic austerity measures meant to bring down the crushing debt in the eurozone’s third-largest economy. With no one political force winning a clear path to a majority in both of Italy’s chambers, politicians began arduous talks to form a government. Most scenarios were seen as leading to a weak coalition vulnerable to a quick fall.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the center-left leader who won the biggest share of votes in Italian general elections, but failed to secure a parliamentary majority, declined to say Tuesday whether he would turn to Silvio Berlusconi or Beppe Grillo to break the stalemate.

That choice will determine the political direction of the eurozone’s third-largest economy, amid concern that it might row back on recent austerity measures, labor and pension reforms, thus undermining confidence in the entire currency bloc.

The vote underscored the still-volatile nature of Europe’s debt crisis. Economists said the chaotic political outlook in Italy raised the prospect that deeper economic turmoil would once again take root.

The key index in Milan fell by 4.4 percent in midday trading on Tuesday, with bank stocks particularly feeling the pain. Italian borrowing costs jumped to three-month highs, and those of other troubled European economies, including Spain and Portugal, also spiked.

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