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Giogia Meloni, leader of the right-wing Brothers of Italy political party, looked set to win Italy’s election on Sunday, according to exit polls.
State broadcaster Rai said Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, in alliance with two right-wing parties, looked set to win up to 45% of the vote in both houses of parliament, compared to the closest competitor. close, the center-left alliance of the former Prime Minister of the Democratic Party. Enrico Letta, who apparently received less than a third of the votes. Rai said the exit poll had a 3.5% margin of error.
Four hours before the polls closed, turnout was 7% lower than the same period in 2018, which saw a record turnout of 73%. The counting of paper ballots was due to begin shortly after the polls close at 11 p.m., with projections based on partial results coming in early Monday.
“Today you can help make history,” Meloni tweeted on Sunday.
If she wins, Meloni would be well-placed to become Italy’s first far-right prime minister since the end of World War II and the country’s first woman to hold the post. His party – with neo-fascist roots – is expected to form a coalition with key allies Anti-Migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and former Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to secure a solid majority in parliament.
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Italy’s complex electoral law rewards campaign coalitions, meaning Democrats are at a disadvantage because they have failed to secure such a broad alliance with populists and left-wing centrists.
However, building a viable ruling coalition in Italy could take weeks. Nearly 51 million Italians were eligible to vote on Sunday. Despite Europe’s many crises, many voters told pollsters they felt estranged from politics. Italy has had three coalition governments since the last election, each led by someone who did not stand for election.
Meloni’s meteoric rise in Italy comes at a critical time, as Italian businesses and households struggle to pay soaring gas and electricity bills, a fallout from European energy policies and the war in Ukraine. . In some cases, energy costs 10 times more than last year.
What kind of government the eurozone’s third-largest economy might have was being watched closely in Europe, given Meloni’s criticism of “Brussels bureaucrats” and his ties to other right-wing leaders.
She recently defended Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after the European Commission recommended withholding billions of euros in funding to Hungary due to concerns about democratic backsliding and possible mismanagement of EU money. .
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Sunday’s elections came six months earlier after Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s pandemic unity government collapsed in late July.
Opinion polls have found Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank, to be hugely popular. But the three populist parties in his coalition boycotted a vote of confidence linked to an energy aid measure. Their leaders, Salvini, Berlusconi and 5 Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte, a former prime minister whose party is the largest in the outgoing parliament, have seen Meloni’s popularity grow while theirs decline.
Meloni kept his Italy Brothers party in opposition, refusing to join Draghi’s unity government or Conte’s two coalitions that governed after the 2018 vote.
Meloni, however, distanced himself from Salvini and Berlusconi with unwavering support for Ukraine, including sending weapons so that Kyiv could defend itself against Russia.
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Prior to the invasion of Russia, Salvini and Berlusconi had sprung from admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Salvini, drawing his electoral support largely from business owners, voiced fears that Italy’s economy could be hit too hard by the fallout from Western sanctions on Russia.
Draghi remains as caretaker until a new government is sworn in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.