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Italy's 5-star and League strife for taking power in elections

06 March 2018

Italians voted Sunday in one of the country's most uncertain elections ever, marked by a far-right and populist surge, anti-immigration tub-thumping and a leading role for comeback king Silvio Berlusconi.

But M5S, which won the biggest share of the vote of any single party, claimed it was the victor. In his home-town constituency near Naples, the M5S's prime ministerial candidate, Luigi Di Maio (pictured above, middle), took nearly two-thirds of the votes.

The longer-term worry for investors is that the Italian election may stoke renewed concern about populist forces in the eurozone, almost a year after many of those were vanquished by the outcome of elections in the Netherlands and France.

Steve Bannon, right-wing populist architect of Donald Trump's White House campaign, was in Rome this weekend, cheering on the populists.

"Don't you understand that a prime minister like Salvini would be a victory for racism in Italy?" she said.

Early indications suggest that the campaign has not ignited passions, with interior ministry figures putting nationwide turnout at 19.4 percent as of 1300 GMT, above the 14.9 percent from the same point in 2013, when however the country voted over two days.

The combination of Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the League party led by Matteo Salvini, 44, and the Brothers of Italy, an extreme conservative faction led by Giorgia Meloni, 41, was not enough for a clear majority.

The M5S has proposed a universal basic income and a tax cut, while the League wants to help Italian businesses and deport hundreds of thousands of migrants.

The option of a government supported by a broad coalition of parties would probably be most favored by both Di Maio and Mattarella. "We are a political force that represents the entire nation", he declared.

"The prospect of a prolonged period of domestic political uncertainty risks weighing on the ongoing recovery", said Nicola Nobile, an economist at Oxford Economics.

M5S premier candidate Luigi Di Maio on Monday hailed the M5S's success in the general election as "historic".

According to polling company YouTrend, the M5S was set to gain 231 seats in the lower house Chamber of Deputies and 115 in the upper house Senate.

Voters backed the anti-immigration, anti-Europe 5 Star Movement, and a coalition of right-wing parties including Silvio Berlusconi's.

Negotiations could take weeks, or even months.

"We need more than ever a stable government that is turned towards Europe, at a time when the Franco-German couple is re-setting itself", Grossetête said.

Analysts said it's too early to gauge the impact of the vote on the Italian economy, which has been improving over the past year.

"At least now there is a possibility for change", he said. The only way to keep 5-Star out would be a coalition of virtually all the other parties, going from the far-right Northern League to the ruling Democratic Party (PD), the biggest loser at the election. On the campaign trail, he vowed to "defeat the friends of (Viktor) Orban, the AfD and (Marine) Le Pen", referring to the League's far-right allies in Hungary, Germany and France. The other big victor from a ballot that will shake the rest of Europe was the hard right, populist Northern League, riding a wave of alarm in Italy over the arrival in recent years of hundreds of thousands of migrants.

Claudio Borghi of the League told Sky that the election results send a clear message to Brussels.

Matteo Renzi has quit as leader of the Democratic Party after suffering huge losses in yesterday's Italian election.

The Femen protester met the former prime minister and known playboy at the polls, telling him his time has "run out". Despite sex scandals, serial gaffes and legal woes, the flamboyant tycoon had made an astonishing return from political oblivion to the political frontline aged 81.

Swift new elections to try to break the deadlock are another plausible scenario.