ITALY VOTES: Populist Wave Predicted as Polls Open for “Most Uncertain Election in Years”

Former Prime Minister and Forza Italia party leader, Silvio Berlusconi, speaks at a rally in Catania, Italy

Voting is underway in Italy for the general election, which has been described as “the most uncertain election in years.

More than 46 million Italians are eligible to vote in the election, which has been dominated by the issues of unemployment, the economy, and immigration.

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s right-wing Northern League party, saw a rise in popularity for his anti-immigration platform and has pledged mass migrant deportations. Just last week Salvini organized a rally of reportedly 50,000 supporters at Milan’s Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square). Together with with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) and Noi con l’Italia (Us with Italy), the center-right has formed the largest coalition.

The movement has capitalized on anti-immigration sentiment in the country and discontent over growing poverty and unemployment among native Italians. Berlusconi has also also promised to deport 600,000 migrants from Italy if his coalition wins.

Italy has seen a dramatic rise in immigration in recent years as the first destination of migrants from Africa. In the last three days of June in 2017, over 10,000 migrants arrived in Italy via boat. The increase in illegal immigration has also culminated in high-profile attacks against migrants, such as the shooting targeting migrants following the murder of an 18-year-old by an asylum seeker.

Polls show the center-right coalition has at least 37% of the electorate, whereas the center-left parties led by PD (Democratic Party) had only 25.5 percent of the vote.

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