Huge protest vote pushes Italy towards deadlock

Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:53pm EST
 

By Barry Moody and James Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - A huge protest vote by Italians enraged by economic hardship and political corruption pushed the country towards deadlock after an election on Monday, with voting projections showing no coalition strong enough to form a government.

With more than two thirds of the vote counted, the projections suggested the center left could have a slim lead in the race for the lower house of parliament.

But no party or likely coalition appeared likely to be able to form a majority in the upper house or Senate, creating a deadlocked parliament - the opposite of the stable result that Italy desperately needs to tackle a deep recession, rising unemployment and a massive public debt.

Such an outcome has the potential to revive fears over the euro zone debt crisis, with prospects of a long period of uncertainty in the zone's third largest economy.

Italian financial markets took fright after rising earlier on hopes for a stable and strong center-left led government, probably backed by outgoing technocrat premier Mario Monti.

The projected result was a stunning success for Genoese comic Beppe Grillo, leader of the populist 5-Star Movement, who toured the country in his first national election campaign hurling obscenity-laced insults against a discredited political class.

With vague election promises and a team of almost totally unknown candidates, the shaggy haired comedian channeled pure public anger against what many see as a sclerotic and useless political system.

The likely result was also a humiliating slap in the face for colorless center-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who appeared to have thrown away a 10-point opinion poll lead less than two months ago against Silvio Berlusconi's center right.   Continued...

 
Voting officials count the ballots in a polling station in Rome February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Yara Nardi