Italians expected to elect a right-wing government led by Meloni

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  • Italians expected the election of a right-wing coalition
  • Meloni will be the country’s first female prime minister
  • Early voting after the collapse of the Draghi government

ROME (Reuters) – Italians voted on Sunday in an election expected to restore the country’s most right-wing government since World War Two and pave the way for Georgia Meloni to become the first woman prime minister.

The right-wing coalition led by Meloni’s Brotherhood of Italy seemed poised for a clear victory when the latest opinion polls were published two weeks ago.

But with the blackout on the polls taking effect in the two weeks leading up to the elections, there is still room for surprise.

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Polls opened at 7 am (0500 GMT) and voting will continue until 11 pm (2100 GMT) when opinion polls are published.

However, the complex calculations required by the hybrid proportional/first-place electoral law mean that it can take several hours before the composition of the new mini-parliament is known.

Heavy rain fell on parts of Italy on Sunday, with the Campania region around the southern city of Naples hit hard. This appeared to put some voters off, with turnout nationwide at just about 51% four hours before polls closed, compared to more than 58% at the same point in 2018.

“Long live democracy,” said Matteo Salvini, leader of the League, one of Meloni’s main allies, as he cast his votes in Milan on Sunday morning.

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Meloni will be the clear candidate for prime minister as the leader of a coalition that also includes former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

Berlusconi, 85, also voted in Milan, wearing one of his model double-breasted suits. Meloni was expected to vote in her hometown of Rome on Sunday evening.

One Roma resident said he hoped the right would win.

“The left, from what I hear, has no serious statement and parties alone, while the right at least has a coalition,” said the voter, whose name was Paolo.

Even if there is a conclusive result, it is unlikely that the next government will take office before late October, as the new parliament will not meet until October 13.

Meloni’s rise

The victory was the maximum noticeable rise for Meloni, whose party won just 4% of the vote in the last national election in 2018.

Meloni, 45, plays down her party’s post-fascist roots as a major conservative group. She has vowed to support Western policy on Ukraine and not take undue risks with an economy hit hard by rising prices.

Italy’s first autumn national election in more than a century erupted into the infighting between parties that toppled Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s broad national unity government in July.

Italy has a history of political instability, and the next prime minister will lead the country’s 68th government since 1946 and faces a host of challenges, particularly rising energy costs.

The result of the vote will also be watched with concern in European capitals and financial markets.

European Union leaders, eager for unity after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, worry that Italy will be a more unpredictable partner than it was under Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief.

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As for the markets, there are constant concerns about Italy’s ability to manage a debt pile of around 150% of GDP.

(1 dollar = 1.0252 euros)

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Written by Keith Weir, Editing by Jane Merriman and Susan Fenton

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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