''Italy has the most stable government in all of Europe because nothing ever changes here,'' Giorgio Costantini, a highway official from Catania, laughed sardonically.
Since World War II, the Italian government has been dominated by the same party and the same players, lending a certain amount of continuity.
But because the Christian Democrats have never been strong enough to govern alone, Italy has also experienced a great deal of political instability. There are no indications the June 26 elections will alter this situation.
Neither terrorism, messy political scandals, nor a troubled economy has loosened the grip of the Christian Democrats in Italy. When voters go to the polls next month they are expected to confirm the party's 38 percent support among the electorate.
But they will also likely confirm the political stalemate that has forced the Christian Democrats into 43 uneasy coalitions since World War II with smaller center-right parties. With 30 percent of the vote, the Communists are the second largest party.
There are signs that Italians are becoming dissatisfied with the turmoil, confusion, and lack of responsibility shown by the politicians' dickering for power. Well-heeled diners in Rome's best restaurants, taxi-drivers, shoemakers, and cafe owners alike are threatening to drop blank - or ''white'' - ballots into the urns to protest the lack of leadership.
''The country is in serious trouble and all the politicians worry about is who is going to get blamed for it,'' said Angelo Zanfretti, a pharmacist from Domodossola, who plans to vote ''white'' instead of liberal.
Election analysts predict 20 percent of the 44 million voters registered may turn in blank ballots.
Scathing editorials greeted President Sandro Pertini's announcement last week that parliamentary elections would be held a year early following the collapse of Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani's five-month-old government. A poll released by Eurisko Opinion Group showed 81.5 percent of the voters surveyed opposed the early elections, even though they have been scheduled for the same day Italians will vote in local elections.
Ironically, the party that has called for good and efficient government is the one that caused the last three government crises by withdrawing from the coalition governments. Each crisis, voters note, is an ill-afforded interruption of government business. In addition, they point out, the June elections are expected to cost an estimated $200 million.
Until last year, the Socialist Party was generally regarded as the party of the future. But Socialist leader Bettino Craxi's ambition to become prime minister and a bribery scandal in Turin's Socialist-controlled city hall have undermined the party's image as the champion of good government.
Analysts feel the Socialists will now increase their 10 percent share of the vote by a mere percentage point or two instead of the 5 percent predicted a year ago.
The Socialists have also had difficulty projecting a clear-cut position on issues. They have tried to carve out an ideological area somewhere between the Christian Democrats and the Communists, but the result is a confusing, mixed bag of criticisms.
''The Socialists are always talking about platforms, but the only thing we know for sure they want is to be in power,'' said Angelo di Pietro, a career Army officer.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the campaign will be the new faces. Vittorio Mussolini - son of Fascist dictator Benito - is the neo-Fascist party's candidate for Parliament. Prof. Francesco Crucitti, the surgeon who operated on Pope John Paul II after the assassination attempt, will run on the Christian Democrat ticket. On the local level, Italy will see the advent of the first environmentalist ''green'' candidates.