Italian Populists Gain, But Not Enough to Govern

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Italian Populists Gain, But Not Enough to Govern

Italy's interior ministry said that the partial results showed that the 5-Star Movement, an anti-establishment and anti-European Union party led by Luigi di Maio, 31, was likely to gain the most votes in Sunday's gridlocked contest - more than 32% - but still fall short of the 40% needed to form a government.

But yesterday's poll failed to produce a clear victor, since none of the parties or coalitions won enough votes to govern alone.

The eurosceptic leader said that he would hold talks "in the coming hours" with the rest of his coalition, in particular Forza Italia party leader and former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The 5-Star Movement, founded by an Italian comedian just nine years ago as an online-driven grassroots revolt against Italy's political establishment, was the biggest victor in Sunday's election, capturing about one-third of the vote.

Despite overseeing a modest economic recovery, the ruling centre-left coalition trailed a distant third on 22%, hit by widespread anger over persistent poverty, high unemployment and an influx of more than 600,000 migrants over the past four years.

Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi casts his vote at a polling station in Milan, Italy March 4, 2018. The Northern League appeared to have performed better than anticipated, with its leader Matteo Salvini claiming its coalition would be able to form the next government. He repeated his belief that joining the common euro currency was a mistake for Italy, but said financial markets shouldn't fear his party's leadership.

Prominent British pro-Brexit figure Nigel Farage congratulated M5S, his allies in the European Parliament, "for topping the poll" as by far Italy's biggest single party.

But beyond this new demarcation, the demise of the centre-left was the key story of the election. The anti-migrant Euroskeptic League received about 18 percent. Di Maio noted that no campaign bloc had obtained a majority and that the 5-Stars had strong showings from north to south. A member of the European Parliament for Lega since 2004, Salvini later began forging connections with French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and their Dutch counterpart Geert Wilders.

Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul who has dominated Italian politics for more than two decades, suffered a humiliating setback in Sunday's election by coming second to the far-right League party in an alliance he expected to dominate.

Indeed, the emergence of both The League and the 5-Star Movement - which have both rallied against European Union bureaucracy - will have shocked Brussels to its core. As such, the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, might well feel compelled to give it a chance to form a government before exploring the alternatives.

Salvini, who has promised to shut down Roma camps, deport hundreds of thousands of migrants and tackle the "danger" of Islam.

Salvini also said he believes his bloc is in a position to rule.

Salvini also indicated he was not interested in what he called "strange coalitions", such as having the League join in a government with the populist 5-Star Movement.

In the 2013 election, PD won 25.4 per cent in upper house, neck and neck with the M5S with 25.56 per cent. Berlusconi's People of Freedom 21.56 per cent.

"The League should not lump all of us together - Indians, Asians, Africans", said Kris Sumun, 35, who came from Mauritius when he was five years old and has worked as a concierge in a Milan building for 11 years. But we are a long way from Italy ditching the euro: both anti-establishment parties have toned down their euro-scepticism in recent months and surveys continue to show a popular majority in favour of membership of the single currency.

If no successful constellation of political groups emerges from those talks, the silver-haired president could end up appointing a government with the primary task of changing the complex election law that created this scenario, which would resign once that job is finished.

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