- Voting begins in snap elections in Italy
- Exit polls expected Sunday evening
This story was last updated at 11:15 UTC
Attendance similar to 2018
Voter turnout at noon reached 19.21% of those eligible to vote, based on a final tally in all localities, Italian news agency ANSA reported citing the Interior Ministry.
Turnout was only slightly lower than the same period in the 2018 election when it reached 19.43%.
DW correspondent Giulia Saudelli said the number of voters turning up to vote at a polling station in central Rome had “increased by mid-morning”.
“We’re told the numbers are pretty good for a Sunday morning,” she added in a tweet. “Heavy rain was expected, but instead the sun is shining.”
The leaders of the first party vote
The leaders of several major Italian parties have already voted this morning.
Enrico Letta of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) cast his ballot at a polling station in Rome, while right-wing Anti-Migrant League leader Matteo Salvini cast his ballot in Milan.
Salvini is running alongside far-right Brothers of Italy (FdI) leader Giorgia Meloni and Silvio Berlusconi of Forza Italia in a right-wing coalition.
He has seen his previous popularity overshadowed by the far-right rising star, who is expected to win more seats. When asked if he considered fourth place a loss, he replied “I play to win, not to compete,” ANSA reported.
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also voted in Florence. A former PD leader, Renzi split from the party and founded Italia Viva, which runs as part of the centrist Azione-Italia Viva coalition.
Who can vote in elections?
Just under 50 million people were called to vote, according to Italian news agency ANSA.
Of these, more than 4.7 million vote from abroad – more than half, 2.6 million, vote from other European countries.
Some 2.7 million people can vote for the first time. The legal voting age in Italy is 18.
There are just over 61,500 polling stations across the country that will be open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with the first exit polls expected as soon as they close.
Turnout is expected to hit a new high this year, falling even lower than the previous high of 72.9% in 2018.
The president votes
Italian President Sergio Mattarella cast his vote in his hometown of Palermo on the island of Sicily.
He showed up at his polling station, a local school, shortly after the polls opened.
The presidency is not up for grabs in Sunday’s vote as it is decided in a separate and complicated system involving lawmakers and regional representatives.
Mattarella won his second term in January.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella voted
Polls are open
Italians began voting on Sunday in what is being described as a crucial election.
People aged 18 and over vote for lawmakers in both the lower house of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, the upper house of parliament.
Polling began at 7 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) and will continue until 11 p.m., with exit polls being released when voting ends.
But it can take hours before an accurate seat count is available due to the complex calculations required by a hybrid proportional/first-past-the-post electoral law.
The snap general election was triggered by the resignation of incumbent Prime Minister Mario Draghi in July when the populist 5 Star Movement – one of several parties in Draghi’s hallmark coalition, which included left, right and centrists – has decided to withdraw its support for the prime minister’s economic aid decree.
Draghi, who was chosen by the president to form a government after the merger of the previous 5-star government, said he would no longer contest.
The key election also comes at a time when Europe is reeling from the effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The vote could see a return to Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II, bringing Eurosceptic populists to the heart of Europe.
Who are the candidates?
There are five main candidates – including three former heads of government and two far-right leaders – vying for power in the election.
A right-wing alliance led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party appears to be leading according to opinion polls and is expected to take office in a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s far-right League and Forza Italia parties.
Meloni – who has previously expressed admiration for Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini – could become Italy’s first female prime minister.
The centre-left alliance favorite is the Democratic Party led by Enrico Letta.
There is speculation that support for the 5 Star Movement has grown in recent days. A late push from the left-wing party could jeopardize the right-wing alliance’s chances of securing a majority in the Senate, making the process of forming a government more complex.
How would a potential Meloni government run the EU?
If Meloni’s Italy Brothers party manages to become the strongest force in Italy’s populist centre-right ruling coalition, it could impact Rome’s relationship with the EU.
How would a possible Meloni government negotiate Italy’s position in Brussels? DW’s Bernd Riegert spoke to political experts about Meloni’s positions on foreign policy and European integration.
ab, dvv/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)