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19th Jan 2019

Italy votes to become more eurosceptic

  • Five Star Movement rally in 2015. The party was the big winner in Sunday's elections (Photo: Revol Web)

Europe woke up to a new period of uncertainty on Monday, as Italian voters produced a new parliament with no clear majority and rewarded parties that criticised the establishment.

Preliminary results on Monday morning (5 March) showed the eurosceptic Five Star Movement emerge as the largest single party, with 31 percent of the votes.

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  • Matteo Salvini, here in the European Parliament, wants Italy to leave the eurozone (Photo: European Parliament)

The centre-right coalition of convicted tax fraudster and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi won 37 percent.

The ruling centre-left bloc of another former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, received almost 24 percent.

It will take until later on Monday before the composition of the parliament is truly clear.

But it is likely that Italy will have a hung parliament with no clear majority, leaving a difficult task to Italian president Sergio Mattarella to lead coalition talks.

What this means for European integration is also unclear, but it is possible that Italy's government will become less inclined to support the grand projects recently floated – just as Germany's centre-left Social Democrats gave a new grand coalition the go-ahead on Sunday.

In any case, the results showed that many Italians were fed up with the political mainstream. The Five Star Movement grew from some 25 percent to 31 percent of the votes.

The party started as a protest group set up by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, and has in the past called for a referendum on eurozone membership.

While the centre-right bloc of four parties emerged as the largest coalition, Berlusconi's Forza Italia received around 13 percent.

The eurosceptic, anti-immigration, far-right Lega, formerly Lega Nord, received some 18 percent.

The party is led by MEP Matteo Salvini, who in the past has called the introduction of the euro an "error" and wants a deep reform of the EU.

In the European Parliament, the party has formed an alliance with the French anti-EU National Front. Following the vote, the president of that party, Marine le Pen, congratulated Salvini, and said that the European Union was about to have "a bad night".

The 81-year-old Berlusconi meanwhile was interrupted at the ballot box by a topless protester of the Femen movement, who had 'your time has run out' painted on her body.

The ruling Democratic Party has already acknowledged defeat.

"This is a very clear defeat for us," said Maurizio Martina, outgoing agriculture minister.

"We are expecting a result below our expectations... This is very clearly a negative result for us," he said.

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

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Berlusconi reassured EPP leaders about the reliability of his centre-right coalition with the eurosceptic Northern League against the rise of the populist Five Star movement, ahead of Italian political elections in March.

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