Italian Election’s Going to Be Messy, Say Pollsters
The final opinion polls before the Italian election suggest it will be a struggle for any of the main parties to form a government.
Friday marks the last day in which opinion polls can be published ahead of the March 4 ballot, according to Italian law. All the polls have similar findings — one of the most unpredictable elections in decades likely ending with a hung parliament. That in turn could lead to a larghe intese — a grand coalition — even though all the main parties have ruled out such an arrangement during a heated campaign.
All the polls show the anti-establishment 5Star Movement led by Luigi Di Maio becoming the single largest party, winning between 27 and 29 percent of the vote. That wouldn’t be enough for the 5Stars to rule on their own, however, and they have rejected the idea of striking a deal with the other mainstream parties.
The center-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi has better chances of securing a working majority, pollsters say. The group — Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, plus the Northern League of Matteo Salvini and the right-wing Brothers of Italy — is predicted to get between 35 and 38 percent of the vote, which could be enough for a razor-thin majority.
Under new electoral rules, 63 percent of seats are assigned using a proportional voting system, with the remaining 37 percent of the parliament to be elected locally under a first-past-the-post system. It’s in the latter where the election could be decided, especially seats in the south of the country.
“Those highly uncertain constituencies in the south are disputed between the center right and the 5Stars,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco, co-founder of pollster You Trend. “The chances of Berlusconi’s coalition winning an absolute majority all reside there.”
The ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD), headed by former prime minister Matteo Renzi, is seen by pollsters as securing between 22 and 24.5 percent. That would mean they have next to no chance of governing on their own. According to analysts, the PD might not win a single first-past-the-post race in the south.
“We have noticed that the voters disappointed by the PD usually tend to be oriented towards the 5Star Movement,” said Antonio Noto, head of the IPR polling agency.
The other main factor that makes the election result highly unpredictable — and any forecast shaky — is the high number of undecided voters, which, according to the latest polls, stands at between 30 and 45 percent of the electorate.
“Around 10 million Italians haven’t decided yet if they will vote and for whom,” Noto said. “That means that the result may change in a substantial way in the last few days before the vote.”
Labor, taxes, immigration and security were the electoral campaign themes that influenced voters the most, pollsters said.
“The last two weeks of the campaign will be crucial for undecided voters,” Pregliasco said. “The political forces that will be able to deliver a few simple and understandable messages will be the favorites. And Berlusconi has demonstrated that he’s very good at that.”