Posts Tagged ‘election’

Voter card storm clouds key Indian state election — Charges of Bribery

May 12, 2018

Voting in a key Indian state opened Saturday amid dirty tricks claims by the two leading parties after nearly 10,000 voting cards were seized by election authorities.

© AFP / by Bhuvan BAGGA | The opposition Congress party is fighting to retain control of its last major state, Karnataka, amid a fierce onslaught by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party

The opposition Congress party, which has dominated India’s politics in the seven decades since independence, is fighting to retain control of its last major state, Karnataka, amid a fierce onslaught by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party.

Voting was postponed in one constituency after the discovery of the voting cards, which authorities suspect were obtained through bribes. Police have launched an investigation.

The state election commission said there was a “planned design to induce the voters, thus attempt to vitiate the poll process” in Rajarajeshwari Nagar district of the state capital Bangalore.

Congress and Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party accused each other of being responsible. Voting in the district was put back to May 28.

Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed across the state of 65 million people for voting. The result, which will have a major impact on campaigning for a national election next year, will be announced on Tuesday.

Voting started slowly in Bangalore, India’s global IT hub, after a rainstorm on Friday again exposed the city’s over-stretched infrastructure with massive traffic snarls, waterlogging and overflowing drains.

– Vote appeal –

But the two parties urged voters to brave the disruption and turn out.

“I appeal to all office bearers and workers of the Congress party in Karnataka to provide all possible assistance to those affected by heavy rains,? Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said in a Twitter statement.

“Our polling booth teams must remain alert and must help voters facing difficulties in reaching polling booths,” he added.

Modi also issued an appeal.

“Urging my sisters and brothers of Karnataka to vote in large numbers today. I would particularly like to call upon young voters to vote and enrich this festival of democracy with their participation,” the prime minister said on Twitter.

The two leaders have embarked on an angry campaign targetting each other with personal attacks. Local issues such as the state’s infrastructure crisis have barely featured.

But Karnataka is crucial for both parties.

Congress is anxious to reverse its political fortunes so it can mount a strong challenge in next year’s election.

If it loses Karnataka, Congress will only have two small states, Mizoram and Punjab, and the small territory of Puducherry which together account for about 2.5 percent of India’s population of 1.25 billion.

The BJP and its allies hold states with about 70 percent of the population.

But Modi’s party needs a breakthrough in the south of India.

The prime minister has has faced allegations of bias towards the northern, western and central regions where his Hindu nationalist BJP is dominant.

Modi has focused his campaign on national pride, the economy and his aggressive foreign policy. He has also attacked Gandhi’s Italian ancestry and family’s privileged history. His mother, Sonia, is Italian and the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty has provided three prime ministers since 1947.

Congress has instead focused on building up the region.

It has also questioned the BJP’s selection of B.S Yeddyurappa as its candidate for chief minister. The 75-year-old has in the past faced corruption allegations.

Some polls have predicted a hung state assembly with a regional party, Janata Dal, led by 84-year-old former prime minister H.D Deve Gowda and his son, playing a key role in forming the next state government.

by Bhuvan BAGGA

India’s Modi fights to capture southern Indian state in election

May 12, 2018

Polling began on Saturday in India’s southern state of Karnataka, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to wrest control over one of the few places left in the hands of the opposition Congress party.

Image may contain: 13 people, including Gary Hughes, people standing

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives a memento as he attends an election campaign rally ahead of the Karnataka state assembly elections in Bengaluru, India, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Polling began on Saturday in India’s southern state of Karnataka, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to wrest control over one of the few places left in the hands of the opposition Congress party.

Modi faces a general election within 12 months, and how his Bharatiya Janata Party fares in Karnataka, the only southern state where it has ever made significant inroads, could give an indication whether the tide is still with him.

The BJP and its allies are currently in power in 22 of India’s 29 states, but after Karnataka, three more state elections will fall due by the end of the year.

Both Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Indian politics since independence, have campaigned hard in Karnataka, a state of 66 million people with diverse constituencies.

Karnataka is the only place in South India where the Hindu nationalist BJP has ever managed to win control of the state government.

State capital Bengaluru is regarded as the home of India’s “Silicon Valley”, while voters in farming and mining areas have very different priorities from urban dwellers.

Both parties have promised farm loan waivers if they came to power, joining the states of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab which have announced loan waivers estimated at $15 billion, which would increase the fiscal burden of those states over the medium term.

Opinion polls have forecast neither the BJP or Congress would emerge as a clear winner when Karnataka finalizes the poll results on May 15. Such an outcome could result in Janata Dal (S), a regional group, taking the role of kingmaker in the 224-member state assembly.

Voter surveys in India are often unreliable, however.

Whereas voters elected Modi in 2014 thanks to his promise of reforms that could unlock growth in the economy there has been disquiet over his stance toward India’s non-Hindu minorities, and the pain resulting from some of the economic steps taken.

The implementation of a new national Goods and Services Tax (GST) last July, was beset with problems, hurting small businesses and hitting economic growth.

“The markets will view the results as a testament of the government’s popularity in midst of wider GST-led disruptions and asset market volatility,” Radhika Rao, an economist of DBS Bank said in a note earlier this week.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Italy makes last-ditch effort to form government

May 7, 2018

Months after inconclusive elections, Italy is still without a government. The left-wing M5S has offered to form a coalition with the League. But the far-right party refuses to ditch its alliance with Silvio Berlusconi.

Michelangelo's statue of David in front of an Italian flag

Italian President Sergio Mattarella is set to broker talks on Monday with the country’s main political parties in a last-ditch effort to form a coalition government.

The stakes are high. Since inconclusive elections in March, Italy’s political parties have failed to reach a consensus.

The euroskeptic 5 Star Movement’s (M5S) leader Luigi Di Maio on Sunday offered to form a coalition government with the far-right Lega, or League. The party used to be known as Lega Nord, or Northern League.

“If the goal is to put into action an election platform and the obstacle is Luigi Di Maio as premier, then I say let’s choose a prime minister together,” said Di Maio during an interview on Rai state television on Sunday, referring to League leader Matteo Salvini.

Luigi Di MaioM5S’ Luigi Di Maio has refused to form a government with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi

But Di Maio insisted that his party would not form a government with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which forms part of a right-of-center coalition led by the League.

Read more: Luigi Di Maio: The populist leader eyeing victory in Rome

Although Di Maio’s M5S led the election with 32 percent of the vote, the League-led right-wing coalition managed to secure a combined 37 percent. However, both political forces failed to reach the 40 percent necessary to govern.

‘Fresh general election’

On the other hand, Salvini on Friday offered to form a temporary government with Di Maio, saying its mandate could last to December in order to pass the 2019 budget and prepare fresh elections afterward.

But Salvini has refused to ditch his coalition partner Berlusconi and his Forza Italia. “If the M5S doesn’t agree, then only a fresh general election remains,” Salvini said.

Matteo SalviniMatteo Salvini has argued that he deserves to be prime minister for leading the largest alliance in parliament

Read more: Matteo Salvini: Italy’s far-right success story

According to government sources, President Mattarella is hoping to avoid elections this year. If Monday’s last-ditch effort fails, Mattarella could handpick a prime minister to bring together a consensus government.

No to technocrats

Interim Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of the center-left Democratic Party, which suffered a historic defeat in the March election, is considered one of the candidates.

That option would require support from either M5S or the League. However, both parties have refused to back such a measure, saying they oppose “technocratic” governments.

Read more: Opinion: Italy’s uncertain political future

“If parliament rejects the president’s government, the situation will be very difficult,” said Lina Palmerini, an analyst at business daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

From 2011 to 2013, a caretaker government led by Italian economist Mario Monti led the country, but the administration was characterized by austerity and received generally low approval ratings.

ls/ng (AFP, Reuters)


Italy’s 5-Star leader calls for election on June 24

May 4, 2018

The leader of Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement dismissed proposals for a stop-gap government to reform the electoral law and repeated his call for a snap election in June, according to a newspaper interview on Friday.

Luigi Di Maio told Il Fatto Quotidiano that an election could be held on June 24, saying that technical objections that more time was needed to organize the vote for Italians abroad were groundless, and clashed with the constitution.

Image result for Luigi Di Maio, photos

Luigi Di Maio

President Sergio Mattarella has called a fresh round of consultations with party leaders on May 7 to try to end nine weeks of increasingly fractious political deadlock following an inconclusive March election.

Asked if it was not necessary to change the electoral law before returning to the polls, Di Maio replied: “It can’t be done, we (the parties) would waste years arguing about it.”

The March 4 election saw a center-right alliance led by the anti-immigrant League winning the most seats and 5-Star emerging as the biggest single party. The center-left Democratic Party (PD) came third.

A matrix of criss-crossing vetoes has so far prevented the parties from agreeing to a coalition deal, with friction and frustration growing by the day.

Italy has repeatedly changed its voting system in recent years.

When the current electoral law, presented by the PD, was approved a few months before the vote, 5-Star held street protests complaining it was designed to hurt their chances at the election.

Mattarella does not want to dissolve parliament, and instead hopes to put together a short-term government to draw up a 2019 budget that has to be approved by the end of December, a source in his office told Reuters on Wednesday.

Di Maio said Mattarella had never made this request to 5-Star during consultations, and dismissed the idea of a temporary government as a way to try to trick his party.

“Once a government starts it will cling on at all costs,” he said.

The last four Italian prime ministers took office thanks to backroom deals rather than ballot-box victories, and repeated efforts to devise an electoral law allowing the swift formation of a government have failed to come up with a winning formula.

While Italy’s day-to-day administration is being overseen by caretaker prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, latest economic forecasts from the European Commission have underlined the need for a fully empowered government ready to undertake reform.

The forecasts on Thursday showed that the Italian economy was set to grow 1.5 percent this year and just 1.2 percent next — the lowest amongst the European Union’s 27 member states.

Editing by Peter Graff


How Erdogan Made Turkey’s Next Election Like No Other

May 2, 2018

The most pivotal election in modern Turkish history will mark the abolition of the prime minister’s role and the coronation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidential office as the nexus of political power. The early poll on June 24 will cap Erdogan’s years-long drive to overturn almost a century of parliamentary rule. Now the question is: Can any opposition candidate wage a credible challenge to Erdogan?

Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Photographer: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

1. What’s so special about these elections?

Last year, Erdogan narrowly won public approval for a package of constitutional amendments that will transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into an executive presidential system. Under those amendments, the change takes effect at the next presidential vote. That was scheduled for November 2019, but Erdogan surprised many in Turkey on April 18 by calling early elections for parliament and the presidency. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, had never before called early elections in the nearly 16 years it’s been in power.

2. What prompted the early elections?

Erdogan cited “developments of historical importance in our region as well as the cross-border operation we’re carrying out in Syria” — the latter being a reference to Turkey’s military campaign against separatist Kurdish groups and Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Many analysts had predicted an early vote, saying a deteriorating economic outlook would prompt Erdogan to change the date rather than risk seeking reelection in a downturn. The elections will come during a state of emergency that’s brought mass purges of political opponents and a severe crackdown on dissent that’s eliminated many independent or opposition news sources and made the country the world’s biggest jailer of journalists.

3. What happens after the vote?

Turkey’s parliamentary system will be swiftly transformed into a presidential system. The president will be anointed head of the executive branch with the power to issue decrees with the force of law, prepare the budget, dissolve parliament on the condition that new elections be held for the presidency and parliament simultaneously, and appoint high-level officials, including ministers and some top judges. While martial law would no longer exist, the president would be able to declare a similar state of emergency, giving authorities powers to restrict basic rights and freedoms.

4. Will Erdogan win?

While some polls suggest he may struggle to win more than 50 percent to give him a first-round victory, he remains Turkey’s most popular politician and may dominate in a second round run-off. As prime minister and now president, Erdogan’s leadership has been marked by economic advances that enabled his turn toward a more authoritarian style of leadership. For this vote, he is also backed by a nationalist opposition party, MHP, after the government changed laws to allow for election alliances. The snap elections gives the opposition only weeks to select candidates, decide on a strategy and get to full-steam campaigning. Fears about the fairness and credibility of the vote have been exacerbated by changes to the election laws. And that was even before the newsthat millions of Turks will be receiving checks from Erdogan’s government party a week before the election.

5. How have the electoral rules changed?

Erdogan has rewritten the rules to allow parties to band together. That’s a blessing for his nationalist ally, the MHP, which faced the humiliating possibility of falling below the 10 percent electoral threshold needed to seat anyone in parliament. The amendments also allow authorities to appoint government officials to run polling stations or relocate them on security grounds, let law-enforcement officials monitor voting, and permit the counting of unverified, unstamped ballots — an issue that clouded the 2017 referendum result. The government said those changes are necessary to secure the vote in Turkey’s southeast from the influence of Kurdish separatists.

6. What becomes of parliament?

It will continue on, though with limited oversight over the newly empowered executive branch. It will have 600 members — up from 550 currently — and a supermajority of at least 360 votes would be required to open an investigation into the president, his deputies or ministers. (In the event of a probe, the president wouldn’t be allowed to call for elections.) With 400 votes, the parliament could refer a case against the president to the country’s top court. The parliament could shorten, extend or lift a state of emergency declared by the president.

7. How long can the president serve?

Two consecutive five-year terms, but a loophole allows a third term if parliament calls snap elections sometime during the second term. Should that happen, Erdogan, who led Turkey as prime minister from 2003 until his election as president in 2014, could continue to dominate the nation’s politics until 2029.

8. How are financial markets taking all this?

The currency and Turkish markets rallied after Erdogan ordered the early elections, as investors welcomed a shortened period of political uncertainty from 18 months to just two. The exuberance was short-lived, however, amid concerns about an overheating economy, Turkey’s vulnerability to higher global interest rates, and the quality of economic policy under an executive presidency with few checks and balances.


The Reference Shelf

  • A QuickTake overview of Turkey’s political, religious and geographical divides.
  • Turkey is getting closer to one-man rule.
  • A Bloomberg article explored Erdogan’s popularity and a Businessweek piece looked at the cost of his purge.
  • Erdogan’s party is sending cash to 12 million Turks before the election.

Malaysia’s election exposes ethnic divide, corruption [Video]

April 21, 2018

Bolsonaro, Marina Silva Tied in Brazil Amid Racism, Inciting Hatred Charges

April 16, 2018
  • Accusations against Bolsonaro based in part on 2017 speech
  • Datafolha poll shows lawmaker with 17% of vote intentions
Jair Bolsonaro

Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg

The first poll since Brazil’s former president was arrested showed environmentalist Marina Silva technically tied as a leading candidate in the next election with Jair Bolsonaro, who is facing accusations of racism and inciting hatred.

A Datafolha poll released by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper showed Bolsonaro with 17 percent of vote intentions and Silva with 15 to 16 percent. The polling scenario didn’t include former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose chances of returning to power have likely ended after he was jailed on a conviction for corruption and money laundering.

Lula was a front-runner for October’s presidential race before his arrest a week ago, and the three scenarios in the Datafolha poll with him as a candidate showed the 72-year-old still getting 30 to 31 percent of vote intentions. Bolsonaro was next with 15 to 16 percent, followed by Silva with 10 percent. Members of Lula’s Workers’ Party reaffirmed that he remains a candidate after the poll was released, Folha de S. Paulo reported Sunday.

Bolsonaro, a lawmaker and former Brazilian army captain, was on Friday charged by General Prosecutor Raquel Dodge for, among other incidents, remarks during a speech in Rio de Janeiro in April 2017. The charges, made to the Supreme Court, accused the 63-year-old of prejudice against Brazil’s indigenous population, women, refugees and LGBT people.

Congressman Jair Bolsonaro has made incendiary remarks about blacks, gays, women and indigenous communities. Credit Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters

‘Sensationalist’ News

Bolsonaro’s adviser and lawyer, Gustavo Bebianno, said in a video shared in message groups that the candidate isn’t a racist, and that this will be “easily proved” in any legal proceeding.

Bolsonaro’s press office said in an emailed statement that the charges were “groundless” and aimed to produce “sensationalist” news — adding that, as a lawmaker, the candidate has the right and duty to discuss controversial topics.

The prosecutor’s office statement quoted Bolsonaro saying in the 2017 speech that he had four male children but that his fifth, a female, was the result of a “moment of weakness.” According to Dodge, his remarks violate constitutional rights of the victims and the rights of the whole society.

If convicted, Bolsonaro could face up to three years in prison and a fine of as much as $117,000.

See also:

Right-Wing Presidential Contender in Brazil Is Charged With Inciting Hatred


Malaysia vote that could decide Najib’s fate set for May 9

April 10, 2018

The Associated Press

Image may contain: 15 people, people smiling

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (center), who also serves as president of the ruling National Front coalition, prays during a launching event for upcoming general elections in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. | AP

Malaysian general elections that could determine scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak’s political survival were set for May 9, with analysts saying the workday polls may reduce voter turnout.

Past Malaysian elections were mostly scheduled on weekends, though workday votes are not unprecedented. National polls in 1995 and 1999 under former strongman Mahathir Mohamad, the opposition leader who is Najib’s strongest challenger, were on a Monday.

The Election Commission also Tuesday set an 11-day campaigning period, shorter than the 15 days in 2013 polls. It said 14.968 million voters will cast their ballot, an increase of 1.7 million new voters.

Analysts say lower turnout could disadvantage the opposition led by Mahathir, Asia’s longest-serving leader for 22 years before he retired in 2003.

“There is a chance for a lower turnout, especially for those who have to travel to vote. A reduced turnout is likely to favor the incumbent,” said Rashaad Ali, research analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Najib, 64, is seeking a third term in office and under pressure to improve his National Front coalition’s performance after support eroded in the last two elections. He has been dogged by a massive corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state fund, which is under investigation in the U.S. and other countries for allegations of cross-border embezzlement and money laundering.

On Saturday, he unveiled a lavish, 220-page election manifesto with cash benefits targeting rural ethnic Malays, his key voting bloc.

His campaign slogan “Make my country great with BN” — the Malay acronym for the National Front — has similarities with President Donald Trump’s 2016 election motto “Make America great again.”

Najib faces a strong challenge from 92-year-old Mahathir, who returned to politics two years ago amid anger over the fiasco at 1MDB, which was set up and previously led by Najib, but which accumulated billions in debt. Mahathir now leads a four-party opposition alliance to oust Najib.

The U.S. Justice Department says at least $4.5 billion was stolen from 1MDB by associates of Najib and it is working to seize $1.7 billion allegedly taken from the fund to buy assets in the U.S.

Analysts expect Najib to win due to recent electoral boundary changes, a buoyant economy and strong support from rural Malays, the bedrock of support for his coalition in a multiracial nation that also includes ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

The opposition has not managed to gain much ground in eastern Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island, which account for a quarter of parliamentary seats. It’s also unclear how much influence Mahathir has among rural Malays.


Egyptian voters head to polls for presidential election (Russian-Style — There is really only one choice)

March 26, 2018

Polls have opened in Egypt for a presidential election in which voters will choose between the current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, and a little-known challenger. Some 60 million people are eligible to vote.

El-Sissi gestures at a 2015 press conference in Germany (Getty Images/A. Berry)

Polls opened on Monday morning in Egypt for a three-day vote where Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is virtually guaranteed to win his second term.  El-Sissi voted in Cairo just minutes after the polls opened at 0700 GMT, according to the state TV.

Observers have slammed the vote for the lack of competition for el-Sissi, whose only rival on the ballot is his long-time supporter, Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

Moussa stepped in as a presidential candidate just as the deadline for submitting applications was set to expire. He has publically denied being a “puppet” of the regime.

Previously, several more serious challengers were either detained or decided to bow out of the race under the apparent pressure from the el-Sissi government.

Read more:‘El-Sissi is on the side of the autocratic rulers’

Ex-general Sami Annan was arrested in January just days after announcing his intention to run for president. The Egyptian Armed Forces claimed Annan forged official documents that would allow him to take part in the election. His chief aide, Hisham Genena, was also attacked and beaten by unknown assailants. Abdel-Moneim Abul Fotouh, who ran in 2012, was arrested on suspicion of joining the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and incitement against government institutions.

Prominent human rights lawyer Khaled Ali also dropped out in January, saying the authorities harassed and intimidated his supporters. Former lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat and former air force general and 2012 presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq have also withdrawn their candidacies.

‘We are just not ready’

In a televised interview, president and former military leader el-Sissi said the lack of serious rivals was “completely not my fault.”

“Really, I swear, I wish there were one or two or even 10 of the best people and you would get to choose whoever you want,” he said. “We are just not ready.”

With some opposition leaders calling for a boycott, the government has stepped up effort to motivate people to go out and vote. Banners and billboards praising el-Sissi were ubiquitous in Cairo and across Egypt, with advertising for his rival Moussa much less noticeable.

El-Sissi hopes for a clear mandate to continue his austerity reforms and tough security measures he claims are necessary in the nation often targeted by terror groups.

Once widely popular, el-Sissi won nearly 97 percent of votes in his 2014 run against left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabbahi. However, turnout was only 37 percent for the planned two-day vote, prompting authorities to add an additional day to the election. The final participation rate was just over 47 percent.

Analysts believe a much smaller percentage of Egypt’s nearly 60 million voters would take part in this week’s three-day ballot. The final results are expected next Monday.

dj/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Italy’s Election: Voters delivered a hung parliament Voters flocking to anti-establishment and far-right groups in record numbers — Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia may have to form government

March 5, 2018


ROME (Reuters) – Italy faces a prolonged period of political instability after voters delivered a hung parliament in Sunday’s election, spurning traditional parties and flocking to anti-establishment and far-right groups in record numbers.


Italy becomes the next European country to fall to a populist, anti-migrant wave, this one featuring Silvio Berlusconi
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the Forza Italia party arrives at a polling station in Milan on March 4, 2018. (Antonio Calanni / Associated Press)

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Milan, Italy March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

With half the ballot counted, it looked almost certain that none of Italy’s three main factions would be able to rule alone and there was little prospect of a return to mainstream government, giving the European Union a new headache to handle.

Scenarios now include the creation of a more euro-skeptic coalition, which would likely challenge EU budget restrictions and be little interested in further European integration, or swift new elections to try to break the deadlock.

A rightist alliance including former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) emerged with the biggest bloc of votes, ahead of the anti-system 5-Star Movement, which saw its support soar to become Italy’s largest single party.

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

The full result is not due until much later on Monday.

A prolonged political stalemate could make heavily indebted Italy the focus of market concern in Europe, now that the threat of German instability has receded after the revival on Sunday of a grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The euro dipped in Asia early on Monday and remained prone to volatility as investors awaited final results.

“Italy is far from having sorted its long-standing problems, and now it will have new ones. Be prepared for long and complex negotiations that will take months,” said Lorenzo Codogno, a former chief economist at the Italian Treasury.

Berlusconi’s centre-right alliance was seen taking around 37 percent of the vote and in a bitter personal defeat for the billionaire media magnate, his Forza Italia party was overtaken by its ally, the far-right, anti-immigrant League.

“My first words: THANK YOU,” League leader Matteo Salvini tweeted. His party, which campaigned on a fiercely anti-migrant ticket, looked set to win more than 17 percent of the vote against just 4 percent at the last national election in 2013.

But the biggest winner on Sunday was the 5-Star Movement, which was predicted to have won a third of all votes cast, up from 25 percent last time around, putting it in the driving seat in any future coalition talks.

“Nobody will be able to govern without the 5-Star Movement,” said senior party member Riccardo Fraccaro.“We will assume the responsibility to build this government, but in a different way, talking with all the parties about what this country needs.”

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Rome, Italy March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

The ruling centre-left bloc was seen on around 22 percent.


During two months of election campaigning, party leaders repeatedly ruled out any post-election tie-ups with their rivals. However, Italy has a long history of finding a way out of apparently intractable political stalemate.

The 5-Star once rejected talk of any power sharing, but it has since modified its position and says it is willing to discuss common policies but not negotiate over cabinet posts.

Led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, the movement was formed in 2009 and has fed off public fury over corruption in the Italian establishment and economic hardship. But some analysts have questioned whether other parties would be able to work with it.

“Di Maio wins, Italy ungovernable,” was the front page headline on the first edition of La Stampa newspaper.

Parliament will meet for the first time on March 23 and President Sergio Mattarella is not expected to open formal talks on forming a government until early April.

Pollster Federico Benini, head of the Winpoll agency, said vote projections suggested that 5-Star and the League would be the largest two parties in parliament and would comfortably have enough seats to govern together if they wanted.

They once shared strong anti-euro views. But while the League still says it wants to leave the single currency at the earliest feasible moment, the 5-Star has since softened its tone, saying the time for quitting the euro has passed.

Its flagship proposal in the election campaign was a promise to introduce a minimum monthly income of up to 780 euros ($963) for the poor. This so-called“Universal Wage” has helped the party draw massive support in the underdeveloped south.

By contrast, Berlusconi and his far-right, populist allies were expected to dominate in the wealthier north, with the centre-left squeezed into a narrow stretch of territory across central Italy, including Tuscany.

“We did not anticipate this radicalization of the electorate who have turned for solutions to the 5-Star and League. We are going to have to reflect on this and find a response,” said senior PD politician Ettore Rosato.

None of the major party leaders spoke in public on Sunday night as they awaited the final results. There was much speculation that the PD leader, former prime minister Matteo Renzi, would step down.

Populist parties have been on the rise across Europe since the 2008 financial crisis. Italy’s mainstream parties have found it especially hard to contain voter anger, with the economy still 6 percent smaller than a decade ago and unemployment stuck at about 11 percent.

Additional reporting by Gavin Jones, Francesca Piscioneri and Giselda Vagnoni