ROME: Italians began voting on Sunday in one of the country’s most uncertain elections ever, with far-right and populist parties expected to make major gains and Silvio Berlusconi set to play a leading role.
Clashes between far-right and anti-fascist activists have marred a gloomy campaign dominated by fears about immigration and economic malaise.
“It’s been a very negative campaign,” said Domenico Coricelli, a 28-year-old in Florence.
Many Italians are cynical about election promises made by the country’s many squabbling parties and confused about what the outcome might be.
“We hope something will change because until now things have been very bad,” said Enzo Gallo, an elderly shopper at a street market in Milan.
“The middle class no longer exists, the poor are becoming poorer, the rich are becoming richer and there is no social justice,” he told AFP.
The result could be a stalemate between the populist Five Star Movement, three-time former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition and the ruling centre-left Democratic Party.
The last opinion polls before the vote put Berlusconi’s coalition in the lead with 37 percent, followed by the Five Star Movement with 28 percent and the centre-left with 27 percent.
But under a new electoral law being tried out for the first time, any grouping would need at least 40 percent of the vote to command an overall majority of seats in both chambers of parliament.
“These elections are a lottery. It’s been the case before but never like today,” said the Head of Political Science at Luiss University Roberto D’Alimonte