Italy's early results show center-right coalition leads vote

Eileen GuzmanMar 06, 2018

Rival populist leaders fought Monday for the right to govern Italy after their surge in a general election left the country in political limbo.

The Milan stock exchange closed down.4 percent, with the Mediaset media company of one of the election's biggest losers, three-time Premier Silvio Berlusconi, down 5.5%.

The four-party, centre-right grouping looks set to win about 37 percent of the vote.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) made significant gains in Sunday's vote though with 31% of the vote, it doesn't have enough seats to form a government, according to state broadcaster RAI.

But M5S, which won the biggest share of the vote of any single party, claimed it was the victor.

The League captured around 18%, while Forza Italia had less than 14%.

Speculation has been rife that Salvini may opt out of the centre-right coalition and form a government with the Cinque Stelle.

"These are historic results", Giancarlo Giorgetti, deputy head of the League, told reporters in Milan.

"I'm not saying it has to be me, but our team is ready", he said, adding that "deals between friends are kept".

Brexit firebrand Nigel Farage congratulated the Five Star Movement, his allies in the European Parliament, "for topping the poll" as by far Italy's biggest single party.

But much depends what leader Luigi Di Maio does next.

Its flagship proposal in the election campaign was a minimum monthly income of up to 780 euros ($963) for the poor, helping it draw massive support in the underdeveloped south. "We will start again in the opposition", he said in the post. "And the Third will finally be the republic of citizens".

Alexis Corbiere of the far-left Defiant France party said Monday on BFM television, "There is a deep wish for change in Europe". Experts estimate that at least 40 percent of the vote are necessary to receive a majority of the seats.

Berlusconi, a flamboyant three-time former prime minister, is on the ropes after his electoral flop, which means European Parliament President Antonio Tajani's candidacy as prime minister is likely dead.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is celebrating the strong showing of the League party.

"It's a total defeat", Renzi said.

"The populists have won and the Democratic Party has lost", PD lawmaker Andrea Marcucci admitted. This is still short of a single-party majority, but impossible to ignore.

The 5-Stars are expected to get 230 seats.

"The vote has radically transformed Italy's political landscape and its repercussions will be long-lasting", said political analyst Wolfango Piccoli.

However, Salvini swiftly ruled out the prospect of forming a coalition with the M5S.

Hilton said the really negative outcome for markets would be a coalition comprising both the Northern League and Five Star.

Meanwhile senior 5-Star member Riccardo Fraccaro said nobody would be able to govern without his party. "Everyone will have to come and talk to us", he added. "Now we are starting to fly", marveled Davide Casaleggio of the 5-Stars. Negotiations on forming a majority could take weeks or even months. And in the case of the North League - a vote against immigration, austerity and the European Union.

Euroscepticism has also been rising in Italy, a country where pro-EU sentiment used to be rock-solid. The League has proposed overturning pension reforms, introducing a flat tax and cutting bureaucracy.

Still the anti-migrant stance proved popular.

There is broad social opposition, and mass protests erupted against a fascist shooting in Macerata of six African immigrant youth.

Financial markets opened lower Monday on the news and were volatile.

The results are a huge blow to the European Union as prospects for an operational, centrist government seem far off and as anti-establishment, Eurosceptics dominate in what will be a turbulent parliament.

"No, no, no", Salvini said when asked about the possibility of governing with the 5-Stars.

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