Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Royal decree on low-cut tops

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Ukraine, The Escalation: No Stopping Putin?

Read more

FOCUS

Bangladesh: Textile workers' lives still at risk?

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

José Bové, Candidate for the EU Commission presidency, Group of the Greens

Read more

WEB NEWS

NYPD's online campaign backfires

Read more

ENCORE!

Celebrating the Bard's birthday in Britain

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yuki Tatsumi, Senior Associate of the East Asia Program, Stimson Center

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

USA: Executions halted over drugs secrecy

Read more

  • US warns Russia against making ‘expensive mistake’ in Ukraine

    Read more

  • Israel halts Middle East peace talks over Hamas deal

    Read more

  • French policemen accused of raping Canadian woman

    Read more

  • A radio station defends peace and tolerance in CAR

    Read more

  • Fresh clashes in Rio over dancer's death

    Read more

  • US would defend Japan in islands dispute, Obama says

    Read more

  • Platini: PSG in danger over Financial Fair Play rules

    Read more

  • Echoes of 2pac and Biggie? French rap feud turns violent

    Read more

  • Afghan guard kills US doctors in Kabul hospital attack

    Read more

  • Ségolène Royal denies banning cleavage at French ministry

    Read more

  • Video: Mayor in east Ukraine ready ‘to turn Slaviansk into battlefield’

    Read more

  • New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

    Read more

  • Millions of Syrians desperately need aid, says UN

    Read more

  • Muslims in CAR pray for an escape route

    Read more

  • Madrid beat Bayern 1-0 in first leg of Champions League semis

    Read more

  • Britain's ex-PM Blair warns against spread of radical Islam

    Read more

  • Turkish PM offers condolences to descendants of Armenians killed in 1915

    Read more

  • Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

    Read more

  • Colombian president reinstates firebrand Bogota mayor

    Read more

  • NYPD public relations campaign on Twitter goes awry

    Read more

Europe

Centre-left and Berlusconi neck and neck in Italy poll

©

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2013-02-25

Voting has ended in Italy's general election, with wildly conflicting projections pointing to a far closer race than initially thought, after a lacklustre campaign overshadowed by a spate of corruption scandals involving all the major parties.

Italy's general election descended into chaos on Monday amid conflicting reports pointing first to a victory for the centre-left alliance of Pier Luigi Bersani and then for Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc.

As voting ended at 3pm on Monday, exit polls for the key Senate race gave the centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani between 36% and 38% of the vote, followed by Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc (30%-32%) and the anti-establishment movement of firebrand comedian Beppe Grillo (17%-19%).

But less than an hour later, early results pointed to yet another spectacular comeback by the “Cavaliere”.

FRANCE 24 REPORTS

Projections based on around half of all votes cast for the Senate put Berlusconi's coalition in the lead with 31%, followed by the centre-left on 30%. Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement was credited with 24% of votes cast, making it the single largest party in the Senate.

All projections gave the centrist coalition of Mario Monti lagging well behind (8%), suggesting the outgoing prime minister's bloc may not meet a 10% threshold to enter parliament.

If confirmed, the results are likely to lead to fresh elections in the coming months, with no one in a position to form a majority in both houses of parliament.

“There is no other option but to vote again,” said Enrico Letta, vice-president of Bersani's Democratic Party (PD).

Final results for the Senate are expected later in the afternoon. Election officials will then begin counting votes cast for the lower house of parliament.

A complex electoral system, dubbed “porcellum” (or pigsty), means all eyes will be on a handful of hotly contested Senate races, including in Lombardy, Sicily and the Campania region around Naples.

Widespread anger

The inconclusive poll follows a lacklustre campaign overshadowed by a spate of corruption scandals involving all the major parties.

The reports fuelled anger among voters burdened by unpopular austerity measures and surging unemployment.

Even by the self-deprecating standards of Italy, the frustration and despair sensed at polling stations appeared to have reached unprecedented levels.

Italy's complex 'pigsty' electoral law

Italy's current electoral law is so complex and cumbersome it has been dubbed "porcellum", or pigsty, by the person who wrote it. The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, has 630 seats, while the Senate has 315 (plus four senators appointed for life). All elected seats are up for grabs on February 24-5. Seats in both chambers are allocated on a proportional basis, with a variety of thresholds designed to encourage parties to form coalitions. Whichever coalition comes first in the national vote is awarded a "majority prize" in the Chamber of Deputies, guaranteeing it has at least 340 of the 630 seats. "Majority prizes" also apply in the Senate, but on a regional basis, making it more difficult for any one coalition to secure a majority of seats in both chambers.

“We are in economic, cultural and moral decline, so it is no surprise our politics go the same way,” said one voter outside Florence's Liceo Machiavelli.

At the next polling station, Sabina Borgone, 41, said politicians had learned nothing during the year-long technocratic government of Mario Monti. “This is a good country for a holiday by the sea,” she said, “but nothing more.”

While there was a general sense among voters that the country was knee deep in trouble, few thought any of the candidates had a solution to Italy's problems.

The widespread loss of faith in politics has boosted Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment movement.

The popular comedian has campaigned throughout the country in a camper van, drawing huge crowds at rallies from Palermo to Trieste. He has urged Italian voters to send all politicians “a casa” (home).

Grillo kept people waiting until midday on Monday before casting his vote in his hometown of Genova. Wearing large sunglasses, he joked that he “couldn't make [his] mind up” about who to vote.

The prospect of more political instability in the eurozone's third-largest economy has caused alarm abroad, where many fear an anti-austerity verdict from voters could spook the markets and revive Europe's debt crisis.

“If no one has a clear majority then we'll be heading back to the polls in six months,” said a UN official who had flown back to Rome for the vote, but declined to be named. “In the meantime, what are we going to tell our European partners? What will Grillo tell them?”

 

Date created : 2013-02-25

  • ITALY

    Weary of scandals and austerity, gloomy Italy votes

    Read more

  • ITALY

    ‘I won't vote because I can't afford to close shop’

    Read more

  • ITALY

    Italy heads to polls in landmark elections

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)