The Wall Street Journal: Italy’s president dissolves parliament, calls for March elections

ROME — Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella dissolved parliament Thursday and called elections for early March, a vote that will highlight the economic and political problems still stalking Europe and the country’s role as the weakest flank in the currency union.

The vote — the latest in a series of momentous elections in Europe — will be in line with the overwhelming trends of 2017, featuring a fractured electorate, continued pressure from populist movements and predictions of a struggle to form a cohesive government.

But for many European leaders, Italy remains the most worrisome spot in the eurozone, given the huge size of its public sector debt, its weak banks and poor competitiveness.

The elections, set for March 4, aren’t likely to put those concerns to rest, as the center-left tries to fend off a populist upstart and the return of Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year-old whose political rebirth is further shaking up politics. The 5 Star Movement — the anti-establishment group that stormed Italian politics during the crisis on popular anger with legacy politicians — could win about 30% of the vote.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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