Glitches, confusion and a naked protester mark Italian election
Polls opened in Italy on Sunday in what is seen as one of the most uncertain elections in years. Observers are watching carefully to see whether Italy will succumb to the populist, Eurosceptic and far-right sentiment that has swept through Europe in recent years.
The campaign was marked by the prime-time airing of neo-fascist rhetoric and anti-migrant violence that culminated in the shooting in February of six Africans.
The centre-right coalition capitalised on the anti-migrant sentiment and has led the polls, but analysts have predicted the likeliest outcome will be a hung parliament.
More than 46 million Italians are eligible to vote and exit polls are expected after polls closed at 11pm (2200GMT), projections sometime thereafter and consolidated results on Monday.
Italy’s interior ministry said the turnout at lunchtime stood at 19.3 per cent – five hours after polls opened.
Long lines awaited voters in Rome, Milan and other cities, and some voters expressed confusion at the ballots.
Sister Vincenza, voting at a polling station on Rome’s Aventine hill, said the process was “all mixed up”.
Glitches were reported not long after voting began.
In Palermo, 200,000 ballots had to be reprinted overnight because the wrong ones were delivered. The outgoing president of Italy’s Senate said some polling stations in Palermo were still closed hours into election day due to delays in getting the proper ballots.
In a tweet on Sunday, Pietro Grasso said such delays and errors were “unacceptable” and he hoped the problem would not discourage people from voting.
In Mantova, the logo of the Democratic Party regional candidate was printed erroneously.
The ANSA news agency said there were likely be court challenges to the outcome as a result.
A topless Femen activist disrupted polling as former premier Silvio Berlusconi was casting his ballot.
The woman, who had the words “Berlusconi, you’ve expired” written in black marker on her topless torso, jumped onto the table at the Milan polling station as Berlusconi was voting.
Photographers in the room to shoot the scene jostled for position amid the chaos while Berlusconi was escorted out.
News reports recalled that Femen activists disrupted Berlusconi’s vote in 2013 as well.