ROME (Reuters) - Electoral reforms passed in Italy this year could bring the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement to power, if the picture painted by a survey published on Tuesday holds until the next election, currently due in 2018.
An opinion poll by the EMG polling agency put 5-Star on 27.3 percent, about five points behind Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's center-left Democratic Party (PD) on 32.2 percent, broadly in line with most other recent polls.
But this would leave both the two leading parties below the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a run-off. The EMG survey was the first to put 5-Star ahead of the PD in a second round of voting, finding that it would take 50.6 percent to the PD's 49.4 percent.
That would give 5-Star a large winners' bonus of seats, which would guarantee it a healthy parliamentary majority under the electoral reform pushed through by Renzi.
The next parliamentary election is not due until 2018, although instability within the ruling coalition often prompts speculation that it could come earlier.
The poll's findings suggest most center-right voters would switch to 5-Star in the second round when their own candidate was eliminated.
The 5-Star Movement has been steadily closing in on the PD over the last year despite an economic recovery, benefiting from PD infighting and from corruption scandals that have hit the mainstream parties of both left and right.
With center-right parties in disarray, several recent polls have suggested that their disaffected voters are more likely to turn to 5-Star than to the PD, even though Renzi has moved the party to the right.
The anti-immigrant Northern League was third in the poll with 14.1 percent, with former conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia on 11.7 percent.
Reporting By Gavin Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey