Friday, 19 October, 2018

Italy's hung parliament raises prospect of far-right PM

Melinda Barton | 06 March, 2018, 22:16

The future of Italy's government was not decided by Sunday's general election vote, but results showed a surge in far-right support that eclipsed its more centrist allies.

Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, which includes the far-right League and Brothers of Italy, is expected to win the most seats but likely fall short of a working majority, but he can not personally stand for office because of a 2013 conviction for tax fraud. The Northern League overtook its ally Forza Italia - the centre-right populist party of 81-year-old, three-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The largest single party in Sunday's election will be the Five Star Movement, which started from a comedian's blog in 2009 but now has more than 30% of the vote after focusing on corruption and anti-establishment feelings among much of Italy's population.

In a stinging defeat for Berlusconi, the anti-immigrant League party headed by Matteo Salvini emerged as the strongest movement within the coalition, taking nearly 18 percent of the vote compared to Berlusconi's 14 percent. The ruling center-left Democrats are projected to get just under 20 percent, with their leftist coalition earning about 22 percent.

However, there is a good chance that a governing coalition could end up leaning significantly to the right of the current Democratic Party's leadership under Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. The real victors were Luigi di Maio of the 5-Star Movement and Matteo Salvini of the League, in an election that saw voter turnout at over 73 percent of the voter population, essentially debunking forecasts of low turnout due to supposed indifference and disillusionment.

A nightmare scenario for the European Union would be a combination of the 5-Star Movement and the League, which together would command a majority of seats in Parliament.

The Democratic Party government's vote halved to 19 percent.

The center-left failed to convince voters with its pro-European message of gradual economic recovery while the anti-immigrant and euro skeptic League party of Matteo Salvini gained huge ground.

The anti-migrant Euroskeptic League received about 18 percent.

The Italian Parliament's first post-election meeting will take place on March 23, though President Sergio Mattarella is not expected to open formal talks on forming a new government until early April. The First Star Movement has discussed a universal income.

He added: "Markets ought to take a dim view on this result if confirmed tomorrow morning, but given that neither of the main right wing parties have campaigned to devalue and leave the euro, our bet is that they will take a relatively sanguine position".

As the results arrived, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen celebrated the strong showing of the Lega party.

The Belgian MEP said, "It was always clear that leaving Italy alone to deal with such a disproportionate share of the migration problem was cruel".