Rome, 25 SEP (EFE).- Polling stations in Italy opened Sunday at 7am local time (05:00 GMT) for general elections in which exit polls predict a victory for the right-wing led by Giorgia Meloni, who could become the first woman to to hold the country’s top post.
About 51 million Italians are eligible to vote, including 2.7 million first time voters, until polling closes at 11pm, following which the results are expected to be made known.
These elections will serve to elect 600 parliamentarians – 400 deputies and 200 senators -, a significant cut from the current 945 – 630 depities and 315 senators – following a referendum reform.
Voting is also underway in the southern autonomous island of Sicily, as it elects its president and members of its regional assembly.
According to pre-poll surveys, Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, could become the country’s first female prime minister, and form the most right-wing government since Benito Mussolini’s fascist rule was overthrown at the end of the war.
Meloni’s coalition, which includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia parties, is expected to win a landslide victory, enjoying 20 points advantage over Enrico Letta’s central-left Democratic Party and its allies.
However, Salvini and Berlusconi’s links with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the tug-of-war between Meloni and her European partners and the fear that a large majority could change the Constitution without consensus have marked an intense summer campaign with up to 40 percent voters undecided or likely to abstain.
According to the polls, if these 40 percent of people vote, the outcome of the elections could be quite different.
While Italian governments in recent years have seen complex coalitions between opposing parties that almost never managed to secure a majority, the right-bloc coalition have presented a united front, with Meloni as its undisputed leader. EFE