Italians head to polls as spectre of Silvio Berlusconi looms

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Support for Berlusconi and comedian Beppe Grillo raises chances of indecisve result

Milan

Italians scurried to the polls today through rain and blizzards to decide who will take over the reigns of the Eurozone’s most indebted economy - with money speculators watching like hawks.

The pro-European, centre-left Democratic Party is the favourite to win the election, when the polls close at 3pm on Monday.

But predictions of a huge protest vote for the comedian and anti-establishment figure Beppe Grillo have raised the prospect of unstable government and the return to financial chaos seen when the last Silvio Berlusconi administration collapsed in November 2011.

"Forming a government with a stable parliamentary alliance may prove tricky after elections," said Eoin Ryan, an analyst with IHS Global Insight. He said Mr Grillo’s popularity was “raising chances of an indecisive election result and post-vote political instability”.

Much of the political establishment – in Berlin and Brussels as well as Rome – is pinning its hopes on a Democratic Party government with support in the Senate from outgoing Eurocrat premier Mario Monti.

Mr Grillo’s Five Star Movement, made up of activitists with no parliamentary experience, wants a referendum on Euro membership as well as an end to austerity measures. But it is scandal-tainted ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, the populist figure apparently eclipsed by Mr Grillo, who remains the market’s main bogeyman, say some analysts.

Pollster Renato Mannheimer said foreign banks deliberating on whether or not to hold on to Italian bonds. were “worried mostly about the return of Berlusconi”.

As if blizzards and threat of Beppe Grillo ransacking Parliament were not enough, three topless feminists from the Ukrainian protest group Femen provided extra excitement at a Milan polling station by hurling themselves at 76-year-old Mr Berlusconi, the leader of the centre-right, as he arrived at a polling station to cast his vote.

The young women had the slogan "Basta Berlusconi" ("Enough of Berlusconi") scrawled on their backs. They were quickly dragged off by police officers.

The most recent official poll - taken two weeks before the vote - suggested the protesters’ and investors’ wishes would be granted, however. The centre-left Democratic Party, headed by Pierluigi Bersani, led with 33 per cent of the vote, against 28 percent for Mr Berlusconi's coalition with the populist Northern League. Mr Grillo’s Five Star movement was in a surprise third place, with 17 percent support, while Mr Monti's centrist coalition had 13 percent.

But an internal poll carried out by the Democratic Party in the days up to the election suggest a surge by Beppe Grillo may make his Five Star Movement the second biggest party, ahead of Mr Berlusconi’s PDL (People of Liberty party).

Despite the chaotic and unpredictable nature of the election, many Italian voters today held out little prospect for change in the near future.

“It doesn’t matter who wins because they’re all idiots,” said Massimiliano Barisone, 40, outside the polling booth in Via Brunacci in Milan today. “Even if Grillo wins, we’ll be back at the polls in six months. Italy needs a Margaret Thatcher.”

Paola Landri, 36, said: “After a month in parliament even Grillo’s people may have their hands in the till. It’s the system that needs changing. But we haven’t got enough good people to do it. So it’s a vicious circle.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor