Italy has seen voters largely opt for the status quo, exit polls following regional elections showed Monday, dispelling some expectations that the right-wing opposition, led by the Lega party, could make strong advances at the expense of the center-left.
Exit polls reported by Reuters when voting ended at 3 p.m. local time showed that the center-left could be just ahead of the center-right in the key voting ground of Tuscany, which has been traditionally a center-left stronghold. However, exit polls showed the center-right could have taken Marche from its rivals.
The region of Campania is expected to be held by the center-left, and Veneto and Liguria by the center-right. Exit polls showed center-right and center-left alliances neck-and-neck in Puglia. In the small region of Valle d'Aosta, a Lega-backed list was seen in front, Reuters noted.
Regional elections were held in seven regions — Tuscany, Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Veneto and Campania — and a long-awaited constitutional referendum on whether to reduce the number of members in parliament from 945 to 600 was also held. An exit poll for the referendum showed the reform was expected to pass easily, as expected. The elections started on Sunday and continued into Monday.
The results of regional elections were being more closely watched to see whether the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Star Movement (M5S) lose ground to an alliance of right-wing parties, led by the anti-immigration Lega party.
In particular, Tuscany, long-held by the center-left, was in the spotlight as opinion polls before the election showed the vote was too close to call. The outcome of the race in Puglia is also seen as important for the balance of power between Italy's national parties.
"The winning alliance in Puglia and Tuscany will determine whether the center-right opposition will do well (by winning in three regions: Liguria, Veneto, and Marche) or secure an impressive 5-1 landslide by leaving only Campania to the center-left," Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence, said before the exit polls emerged.
"The outcome of the race in Tuscany will largely shape the post-vote narratives, especially if the center-right prevails. Tuscany is historically known as a center-left heartland and is regarded, together with Emilia Romagna, as the 'spiritual house' of the PD," he said in a note Monday.
He warned that a defeat in Tuscany "would trigger turmoil within the PD, leading the party to become more assertive in its governing arrangement with the M5S."