Resurgent right ahead in Sicily vote: exit polls

Catania (Italy) (AFP) –


Italy's resurgent right was ahead in Sicily's regional vote Sunday and looks likely to narrowly beat the populist movement in a victory seen as a key indicator for the general election, exit polls showed.

Polls on the Italian island closed at 10 pm (2100 GMT) and vote counting will begin on Monday.

The right is forecast to have taken between 35 and 39 percent of the vote according to public television RAI -- a triumph that would boost the fortunes of four-time former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which had been hoping to take control of its first region, is believed to have between 33 and 37 percent of the vote.

The left had two main candidates: one supported by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the other by the MPD, a new party formed this year after the PD's far-left flank broke away.

The PD -- former premier Matteo Renzi's party -- is forecast to have taken between 16 and 20 percent of votes, while the MPD looks to have taken between seven and 11 percent.

If the results are confirmed, it would prove the power of a coalition made up of Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy) and its rightist allies the Northern League and the Brothers of Italy.

It would be a big disappointment for the anti-establishment M5S, which had hoped the vote would be a springboard for national power at the general election next year.

The lesson for the left, which had largely expected to lose in Sicily, will be the urgency for it to overcome internal differences to present a united front at the election, which must be held before May.