Italian Populists Gain, But Not Enough to Govern

"The (next) government is an enigma", read the front-page headline of the daily Corriere della Sera. The anti-immigration League received 17.6% of the vote, while the centre-right Forza Italia won 14% of the poll.

Italy wakes up on Monday morning to find out that the future of their government is still as unclear as before their votes were counted.

Of the parties in the leading coalition, the largest number of votes (16.2%) has the anti-European and anti-immigrant, far-right "Northern League" of Matteo Salvini, who says Italy needs a "mass purge - street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, with final methods, if necessary".

That system had been dubbed the "second republic". A solution will probably turn out to be to reach an agreement with the Democratic Party (PD). "We will be watching the coalition negotiations closely for signs that they may start to drive a contagion effect among the continent's bond and equity markets, as was the case during the European sovereign bond crises earlier this decade".

"We have destroyed all the parties who have dissolved in sickening diarrhoea", said comedian and Five Star founder Beppe Grillo. His goal was allegedly to "save" the Italian people from being governed by "Communists" after the collapse of centrist parties under the weight of anti-corruption investigations.

Berlusconi can not hold public office himself until next year because of a tax fraud conviction. Berlusconi's Forza Italia captured only 14 per cent of the vote, compared to 18 per cent for coalition partner Salvini's League, which achieved virtual dominance in Italy's prosperous northern regions, where Berlusconi made much of his huge wealth.

The latest projections showed a center-right coalition led by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi hovered at 37 percent in both houses of parliament.

She said that potential plans to reform or leave the euro were mainly "political slogans". If the president's formal consultations with party leaders fail to produce a majority by June, Mr Mattarella could dissolve parliament and trigger new elections, the official said.

In his reaction to the electoral result, Salvini said Lega had the "right and duty" to govern at the head of a right-wing coalition.

Renzi resigned on Monday as leader of the PD after the election defeat. "I'm not racist but I think that people who come to Italy should come here to work and not commit crimes or violence like rapes", Evaristo Bellu, a 56-year-old supporter of the League, told AFP. The great fear for those overseeing the euro currency is that a party may come into government seeking to get out of the single currency and revert to the country's original currency.

"These elections have been a triumph for the Five Star Movement, we are the absolute winners", Di Maio said in Rome, adding that they would project his party "inevitably towards the government of the country".

In order to form a government, Five Star must find coalition partners.

But no one party or alliance is expected to have a majority in either house of parliament - and Italy's next government will need to control both.

The party secured less than 20 percent of the vote, its worst ever showing, prompting Renzi to resign as leader. The center-left bloc was far behind with 23 percent support.

Alternatively, Five Star may hope to convince the League party to join a coalition as a junior partner. "We said during the campaign that we'd never govern with extremists and we will remain faithful to that position".

Still the anti-migrant stance proved popular.

Immigration and economy formed two key election issues.

The PD crashed after five years in government, during which the economy recovered from recession but remained behind European Union growth rates, and unpopular mass immigration from Africa was contained only from 2017 onwards.

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