- Italy has a new caretaker government in place...
- ...but it could be short-lived, as we expect elections in Q2 2017
- HSBC expects the new government to focus on passing new electoral laws and provide a solution for the troubled banks
As Fabio Balboni, European Economist at HSBC expected, Matteo Renzi's resignation as Prime Minister following the rejection of the constitutional referendum on 4 December did not lead to a snap election. The Italian president appointed the former Foreign Affairs Minister, Paolo Gentiloni, as Prime Minister. He believes Gentiloni's caretaker government, supported by broadly the same parliamentary majority as Renzi's, will have a narrow mandate, focussing on three key issues, before taking Italy to elections (likely in Q2 2017, in their view):
- Re-align the electoral laws for the lower and upper house. There are conflicting views among parties on what the optimal law should look like, and the Constitutional Court's hearing on the current law for the lower house, on 24 January, will also dictate the timetable. He expects the electoral law(s) will end up being a slightly softer version of the Italicum, effectively favouring some form of coalition government after the election (which would make it harder for the populist Five Star Movement to form a government on its own).
- Address the challenging situation of the banks, and in particular the imminent recapitalisation of Monte Dei Paschi di Siena. Balboni thinks this process will end up with some form of direct government intervention, with the bail-in of equity and bondholders (though retail investors will be refunded). A possible bigger injection of money, to provide a safety net for other banks facing a similar situation in the future, is also possible, though might present bigger legal issues, in their view.
- Respond to a possible call by the European Commission for an additional 0.1-0.2% of GDP fiscal austerity in 2017. This could happen when the final 2016 deficit outturn is communicated by Eurostat early next year (likely, March). But with a caretaker government in place and the prospects for imminent elections, he thinks Brussels will have a light-touch approach.
However, at least for now, the HSBC team does not think Italy's euro membership is at stake.