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Italy's anti-immigrant League hails unprecedented results in elections

07 March, 2018, 00:29 | Author: Shawna Walton
  • Italia economics

But the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement party looks likely to score the single largest number of votes on the back of widespread discontent over high unemployment and a lagging economy - just not enough votes to form a government on its own.

The election is a political sea change for Italy, with voters shunning the parties that have governed the country in recent years, including the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!). Ten-year Italian government notes yielded 2 percent at the end of trading Monday, which was lower than a week earlier.

"Ungovernable Italy" headlined one daily newspaper as the results rolled in.

A centre-right coalition was set to win most seats in parliament ahead of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, with the center-left third, according to the polls.

By contrast, Salvini and Berlusconi - heading for nearly 18 per cent and 14 per cent respectively - appeared to have dominated the wealthier north, with the centre-left squeezed into a narrow stretch of central Italy.

Exit polls in Italy revealed a sweeping gain for the populist parties as the Five Star Movement (M5S) won 32% of the votes - the largest number for a single party - and the far-right Northern League gained 17%.

Despite the right-wing coalition finishing first, Berlusconi's Forza Italia party actually garnered fewer votes than allies The League.

One of the biggest winners was League leader Matteo Salvini who declared his party had the "right and duty" to govern at the head of a right-wing coalition.

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.

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

Founded in 2009 by comedian Beppe Grillo, who denounced cronyism in Italian politics, Five Star is now led by Luigi Di Maio, 31.

Di Maio spoke less than an hour after the head of the League made the same claim on the part of the center-right coalition, which collectively has more votes than the 5-Stars. However, Italy has a long history of finding a way out of apparently intractable political stalemate.

The role reversal marks a bitter personal defeat for the billionaire media magnate and his party, which took more moderate positions on the euro and immigration while the League campaigned on a fiercely anti-migrant ticket.

He also personally thanked his ally, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, for her "support and esteem".

The Euroskeptic, anti-establishment Five Star Movement was the biggest single victor with about a third of the vote, though it will not have enough seats to form a government.

"All the fissures that Europe faces will be exacerbated by this government", he said.

It will now be up to President Sergio Mattarella, a constitutional scholar, to sound out the political parties to determine who has the best chances of forming a government.

"We expect lengthy negotiations after these elections, which may lead to increased volatility of Italian assets", said Matteo Ramenghi, CIO at UBS WM Italy.

Reuters reports, "The European Union has insisted that Italy take charge of the newcomers, letting hardly any of them move to other EU states".

Five-Star and the League once shared strong anti-euro views, but 5-Star now says the time for quitting it has passed. The bitter and divisive contest yielded no overall victor, but the swing towards populist extremist parties should be a concern.

Italy is one of the main entry points into Europe for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.


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