For people in Britain a general election turnout of approaching 75 per cent would indicate a high level of popular participation. Not so in Italy where the figure usually surpasses 80 per cent.
The abrupt increase in abstentionism for Italy's weekend election might have been higher still but for the ability of comic-turned-political leader Beppe Grillo's 5 Star Movement (5SM) to capitalise on voter revulsion at politicians.
Grillo and 5SM attracted support from around a quarter of the electorate on the perception of being different from either right-wing sleazebag Silvio Berlusconi's coalition or Pier Luigi Bersani's Democrats.
They will be courted by the two major formations, but it is difficult to see how 5SM could come to an accommodation with the political establishment it has savaged.
Berlusconi, who still faces a succession of criminal charges, had no answer to Italy's debt problem and bankers' crisis when he bailed out of the premiership in November 2011 to allow unelected European Union bureaucrat Mario Monti to take over.
The billionaire media mogul promised towards the end of this election campaign to repeal an unpopular tax on homes and to reimburse homeowners, if necessary from his own wealth.
For his part, Monti had no doubt whatsoever about how to deal with the bankers' crisis. It was to follow the bankers' agenda to a T.
Openly backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, he imposed harsh austerity measures, including backing the housing tax, making it easier for employers to sack workers and approving an EU fiscal compact.
Finally submitting himself to the voters, Monti's electoral outfit has achieved a score of around 10 per cent, revealing widespread popular antagonism to his policies.
However, he is not without friends. When he was pushing his anti-people policies through parliament, he was supported by Bersani's party, which is the largest remnant of what was once western Europe's largest Communist Party with up to two million members.
Inexplicably, Bersani favours Monti as a potential governing coalition ally to carry forward the bankers' agenda decreed by the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
No wonder the Democrats have failed to seize clear control of both houses in the wake of Berlusconi's buffoonery and corruption and Monti's cold-blooded assault on working-class living standards.
And little wonder also that Grillo and 5SM have harvested a quarter of the votes in consequence of the Bersani, Berlusconi and Monti formations differing only in detail over how to screw the workers.
The voters' clear appreciation that the hand of Brussels is implicated in the Monti austerity agenda will also have assisted 5SM, which has criticised the EU and pledged to review Italy's membership of the single currency.
Grillo may have been playing to the gallery when he promised also to review the country's involvement in Afghanistan and other international treaties. Who knows?
Whatever, his party's rapid gain in support through speaking out over concerns that would once have been voiced by the Italian Communist Party speaks volumes for the rightward trajectory of Bersani's Democrats.
The Democrats have missed an historic opportunity to profit electorally from the antics of Berlusconi and Monti.
Whether they cobble together a coalition with Monti and others or have to face a new general election, the short-term prospect for Italy's working class is far from favourable.
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