Polls are open for Italy’s general election, which is expected to radically reshape the country’s political landscape in favor of right-wing, anti-establishment and populist parties.
On Sunday, Italians will vote to elect deputies to both houses of the country’s parliament for the first time since 2013. In an unusual arrangement, both the 320-seat Senate and the 650-seat Chamber of Deputies possess identical powers and are voted in using two different versions of proportional representation.
Before a mandated blackout, the final mid-February polls predicted a major slide for the center-left Democratic Party, which led a majority in both chambers for the past five years but was expected to gain about 21 to 22 percent of the votes this time around. The predicted front-runner is the anti-establishment and Eurosceptic Five-Star Movement led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, which is in position to garner 26 to 28 percent of the vote.
The Five-Star Movement has said it will not enter any coalition and it is unlikely to get an overall majority, meaning the government could be formed by the Center-Right Coalition, which is in a position to attain 38 percent of the vote. It comprises Forza Italia (15-17 percent) led by 81-year-old former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who remains barred from taking office until next year, and Lega Nord (14-15 percent), an anti-immigrant populist party.
Former PM and the Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi has already cast his ballot. Among the first politicians to vote was also President Sergio Mattarella.
Exit polls will be published when voting stations close at 11:00 pm GMT, while official results will be known by Monday. The make-up of the government is likely to remain uncertain for weeks, while negotiations take place.
Some Italians have been at least temporarily prevented from casting their vote. The outgoing president of Italy’s senate voiced concern on Twitter over reports that polling stations in Palermo were still closed hours into election day due to delays in receiving ballots.
Describing the delays and errors as “unacceptable,” Pietro Grasso said he hoped the problems wouldn’t discourage people from voting.
Palemro authorities were forced to reprint an estimated 200,000 ballots overnight after the wrong ones were delivered.