Italy Faces Political Paralysis After Populist Jolt

Italy entered a period of political instability on Monday after national elections boosted populists but failed to produce a winner with enough support to patch together a parliamentary majority.

With about 95% of votes counted early Monday, the antiestablishment 5 Star Movement was projected to win 32% of the vote—exceeding expectations and emerging as Italy’s largest party.

The 5 Star Movement, which has won a large following by denouncing Italy’s conventional politicians as corrupt, has long been hostile to the idea of forming governing pacts with other parties. Despite some signs of greater flexibility recently, many observers believe a government led by the movement will be difficult to assemble.

“Nobody can govern without the 5 Star,” Riccardo Fraccaro, a leading party member, told a news conference after the vote.

On paper, the 5 Star could form a government with another populist group, the anti-immigrant League.

Such a populist coalition, which would shock Italy’s and Europe’s establishmentand possibly challenge European Union rules on economic policy, faces political hurdles, however, given major differences between the parties’ ideology and political strategies up to now.

The 5 Star’s growth, and the fact that antiestablishment parties won just over half of all votes, are likely to raise concerns in the EU political about the strength of anti-incumbency feeling in one of the bloc’s founder members.



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