Saturday, 24 June, 2017

Italy's 5-Star Movement seen failing in local vote: exit polls

Five Star Movement's leader Beppe Grillo enters a polling station to cast his ballot for Italy's mayoral elections in Genoa Italy Sunday Mayor Elections in Italy Test Party Support ahead of Parliamentary Polls
Andrew Cummings | 13 June, 2017, 11:44

The centre-right and centre-left looked set to dispute many of these battles at a June 25 second round vote.

National elections must be held by the first half of next year and could come as early as this autumn, meaning Sunday's vote in 1,000 towns and cities was an important test of political strength.

Until Grillo's Movement started gaining ground in the last few years, Italy's political scene had been dominated for a quarter-century by center-right coalitions, led by media mogul and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, and center-left alliances, now led by ex-premier and Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi.

Moreover, in numerous contests, the parties have taken a back seat and chosen to camouflage themselves in broad "civic list" coalitions rather than present their own individual candidates.

A closer contest is expected in the northern port city of Genoa, where the center-right hopes to win control from the center-left incumbent.

5-Star and the ruling center-left Democratic Party, led by former premier Matteo Renzi, are running neck-and-neck in national polls with around 30 percent support.

Initial counts showed 5-Star candidates coming third or fourth in Parma, Verona, Palermo, L'Aquila, Catanzaro, Lecce and Genoa, home of the movement's founder, Beppe Grillo.

The populist movement has been keen on making inroads in the south.

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The far-right Front National got merely a 14% share of the vote, according to an Ipsos exit poll; that is the same as in 2012. He voted for Macron's party, then brought his kids to play in the fountains of a Paris park on an extraordinary spring day.

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But if exit samplings prove accurate, voters delivered stinging defeats to the populists, keen on gaining the premiership for the first time via national elections due in 2018.

It also took control of a string of smaller municipalities.

But M5S has been beset by divisions, with this year's top candidate for Genoa abruptly dismissed by Grillo for not toeing the party line, prompting a fierce bout of internal squabbling.

Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far-right Northern League - long-time allies but with increasingly diverging political agendas - trail with less than 15 percent each.

5-Star is running neck-and-neck with the PD nationally, according to opinion polls, but it often struggles in local elections due to its loose organization and lack of high-profile candidates, and it is expected to score few successes on Sunday.

Analysts said the party was punished, in part, for its poor track record in Rome, after winning elections there last summer.

Until last week, Italy's main parties had been trying to pass a new proportional electoral law together, but the deal unraveled.

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