In Sunday’s vote, early results showed, the parties that did well all shared varying degrees of Euroskepticism, with laments about Brussels treating Italians like slaves, agitation to abandon the euro and promises to put Italy before Europe.
However despite the big gains enjoyed by the far right, polls indicate that the likeliest result is a stalemate between the M5S, Berlusconi’s coalition and the centre-left grouping led by the ruling Democratic Party (PD).
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert says that while the final election results aren’t known yet “we wish those in positions of responsibility there success in forming a stable government, both for the good of Italy as well as the good of our common Europe”.
The shock result has been compared to Trump’s sensational win in the 2016 United States election, which was fuelled by an anti-immigration “America First” message, and the UK’s historic Brexit vote. “This is very clearly a negative result for us”, he said.
More than 46 million people were eligible to vote, including Italians overseas who already mailed in their ballots.
In just a few short years, the Northern League has gone from a small party in the north of Italy to a national force which could soon be part of the most right-wing Italian government since the Second World War.
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.
The far-right Lega, with 17.3 percent, is ahead of its more moderate coalition partner, Forza Italia (Go Italy!), on 14.1 percent.
Under a “gentleman’s agreement”, whoever emerges as the victor between the two will choose the next prime minister, if the coalition were to win a majority.
In third place was the centre-left coalition with 23 per cent meaning no faction won a clear majority.
Roberto D’Alimonte of Rome’s LUISS University said such an alliance would be “catastrophic” for the financial markets. “The odds are still that there is no majority in parliament”. But what is clear is that the centre left were punished. Italians didn’t buy the story of Italy getting better.
Italy’s election campaign reads much like a police blotter, chronicling a country whose politics lately have been increasingly nasty, divisive and even violent.
The centre-right coalition now dominating includes a smaller far-right party, with 33% to 36% percent of the vote, compared with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement’s 29.5% to 32.5%.
Salvini, 43, (above) who never has held public office in Italy, fed public anger at the EU’s inability to help handle hundreds of thousands of migrants who flooded the country in recent years after being rescued while crossing the Mediterranean Sea.
It also showed that the populist Five Star Movement was the most popular single party, with between 29 and 32 percent of the vote.
“Despite a stronger than expected performance, the M5S (Five-Stars) are still far away from securing an absolute majority”, wrote Wolfango Piccoli, a London-based analyst with Teneo Intelligence.
One is a an “anti-system” post-election pact between the Five Star Movement and the League – a prospect that has spooked foreign investors and European capitals.
But Piccoli said chances of such a coalition deal were “very low”.