Salvini's Lega surges as Movimento 5 Stelle slumps.The right-wing Lega party of Italy's deputy premier and interior minister Matteo Salvini has won a major victory in the European elections, taking almost 35 per cent of the vote in Italy according to provisional results. It now becomes not only the major partner in Italy's governing coalition government with the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) but also the party with the most votes in the country.
The Lega's strong performance is in contrast to the disappointing result for the M5S led by Luigi Di Maio, Salvini's coalition partner in government, which slumped to about 17 per cent - an almost exact inversion of the result in last year's general election.
Salvini's hand has now been strengthened in the deeply divided government however he committed the Lega's loyalty to the coalition and denied that the result would lead to the government's collapse. Salvini, who is pressing for swingeing tax cuts in possible defiance of EU budget rules, said the result represented a mandate for Italy to seek to change the EU's "old, obsolete parameters."
The opposition centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) has made a strong come-back, registering an estimated 22 per cent, while the centre-right Forza Italia (FI) of former premier Silvio Berlusconi recorded around 8.7 per cent, and the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia (FDI) won over six per cent.
In Rome the PD is in the lead with 30 per cent, a decrease of about 12 per cent compared to the previous European elections in 2014. The Lega is in second place on just over 25 per cent, around double its 2014 result.
The M5S party of Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi received about 17 per cent, a decrease of some seven per cent on 2014, followed by Fratelli d'Italia with over eight per cent and Forza Italia on just over five per cent.