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Italians vote in elections that could usurp extreme power

ROMAN — Italians voted on Sunday in an election that could tip the country’s politics sharply to the right at a crucial time for Europe, with the war in Ukraine boosting energy bills. skyrocketed and tested the West’s resolve to unite against Russian aggression.

Polls opened at 7am (0500GMT). Paper counting is expected to begin shortly after they close at 11pm (2100 GMT), with predictions based on partial results arriving early Monday morning.

Before the publication of the banned opinion polls 15 days ago, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her Brotherhood party, with neo-fascist roots, were leading in popularity, showing Italians ready to vote for their first far-right government to come to power since. World War II. Right behind is former Prime Minister Enrico Letta and his centre-left Democratic Party.

Meloni is part of a right-wing coalition with Anti-Migrant League leaders Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time prime minister who heads the Forza Italia party he created three decades ago. Italy’s complicated electoral law rewards campaign alliances, meaning Democrats are disadvantaged because they fail to secure a similarly broad coalition with populists and centrists left wing.

If Meloni becomes prime minister, she will be the first woman in Italy to hold the post. But putting together a viable, governing coalition could take weeks.

Nearly 51 million Italians were eligible to vote.

But pollsters predict turnout could be even lower than the record low 73% in the last general election in 2018. They say that despite Europe’s many crises, many voters voters feel alienated from politics, as Italy has had three coalition governments since the last election. – was led by someone who had never run for office.

The elections were held six months early after Mario Draghi’s pandemic unity government collapsed in late July. The President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, had no choice but to let voters elect a new Parliament.

Opinion polls show that Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, is extremely popular. But three populist parties in the coalition boycotted a confidence vote tied to an energy bailout. Their leaders, Salvini, Berlusconi and 5-Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte, a former prime minister with the largest party in the outgoing Parliament, have seen Meloni’s popularity grow while growing. they go downhill.

Meloni has kept his Italian Brotherhood in opposition, refusing to join Draghi’s unity government or the two Conte-run coalitions following the 2018 vote.

She further distanced herself from Salvini and Berlusconi with her unwavering support for Ukraine, including sending weapons so Kyiv could defend herself against Russia. Her nationalist party championed sovereignty.

Before the Russian invasion, Salvini and Berlusconi had admired Russian President Putin. In the final days of the election campaign, Salvini criticized Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine.

Many factories in Italy face cuts – some have reduced output – and other business could close as they struggle with electricity and gas bills 10 times higher than a single one. last year. The main candidates, regardless of their political leanings, agreed on the urgency of an EU-wide energy price cap, which would otherwise fail to achieve a country-wide energy price cap.

Draghi, who remained in a caretaker role until the new government was sworn in, for months forced EU authorities in Brussels to take similar measures.

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