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Observers have painted the outcome of the recent election -- a split so even that no party can form a government -- as a uniquely Italian farce. In fact, the impasse is the result of a Europe-wide trend: declining support for long-standing political parties in the wake of the economic crisis.
Prime Minister Mario Monti's recent resignation and former Prime Minister Silivio Berlusconi’s return to politics are unlikely to be game changers. In fact, they are simply the latest examples of a broader problem in Italian politics: the inability of conservatives to build a credible political party.
Monti’s appointment fits an established Italian pattern: fiscal laxity under populist center-right governments followed by brief emergency periods of technocratic austerity under the center-left and EU. To make fiscal responsibility stick this time, Brussels should back Monti as he builds up a popular mandate for gradual reform.
Cameron's response to this month's unrest in London might have cost him the cooperation of the Liberal Democrats and derailed his economic and social policies for good. His coalition government is not likely to fall any time soon, but he will face deadlock for months to come.