[Rome : Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni casts his ballot in Rome, Sunday, March 4, 2018. More than 46 million Italians were voting Sunday in a general election that is being closely watched to determine if Italy would succumb to the populist, anti-establishment and far-right sentiment that has swept through much of Europe in recent years. /PTI]
Rome, March 4 : Italians started voting on Sunday in the country’s general elections to elect a new parliament after a divisive campaign dominated by concerns over immigration and the economy.
Some 46 million Italians are eligible to vote. Polling stations opened at 7 a.m., and will close at 11 p.m., reports Efe news
Italians are set to elect 630 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 315 members of the Senate under a new law.
In the new system, 36 per cent of representatives will be allocated by using the first-past-the-post electoral system and the remaining 64 per cent using a proportional method, with one round of voting.
According to recent opinion polls, published in mid-February, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition formed by Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant Northern League party and the Brothers of Italy could be the eventual winner with about 35 per cent of the vote, although insufficient to form the government.
The four-time Prime Minister has backed European Parliament President Antonio Tajani as his choice to lead the country, reports the BBC.
The Five Star Movement is expected to come in second place but get the most support of any single party with 29 per cent of the votes.
The ruling Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is expected to get about 23 per cent.
Opinion polls said that more than 30 per cent of voters had not decided how they would vote.
Results are expected by early Monday morning.
Meanwhile, the huge number of immigrant arrivals has upset many Italians – with politicians, including from the mainstream, toughening their rhetoric as a result.
Berlusconi has called the presence of illegal migrants a “social time-bomb” and pledges mass deportations.
The campaign has seen violent clashes between far-right supporters and anti-fascist protesters.