Italy goes to the polls on Sunday after a wild and divisive campaign

Silvio Berlusconi (L), President of Forza Italia and former Italian Prime Minister, and Matteo Salvini, leader of Lega Nord party. Credit: PA

The centrist Democratic Party, centre-right Northern League and the populist Five Star Movement all concluded their campaigns late on Friday ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Italy, with pollsters expecting a hung parliament after the vote.

Silvio Berlusconi, the 81-year-old Forza Italia leader and a former prime minister, could emerge kingmaker with his centre-right alliance (Forza and the Northern League) likely the largest bloc in the chamber.

The populist Five Star Movement, which is expected to be the biggest single party in the parliament, has run on a plank of anti-austerity and euroscepticism, and has promised find an alternative to the Euro.

Founded by comedian and activist Beppe Grillo, the party is currently led by 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, a man whose inexperience has proved an asset against the backdrop of a broken system of aging career politicians.

However, the Five Star Movement has said it does not wish to enter into coalition with any other party, undercutting the prospect of a stable government emerging in the coming weeks.

Berlusconi, who cannot currently take up office himself due to a tax fraud conviction, has backed European Parliament President Antonio Tajani to lead the country.

A wild and bitter campaign has been dominated by the issue of immigration, with each party promising to arrest the migrant influx. Youth unemployment has also been a major theme, with both right and left offering plans to give young people access to the labour market.

Voting starts early on Sunday, with the first exit polls expected on Monday morning.