Forget Berlusconi: Italy has become a major setback for the European Union


Meanwhile, the populist and right-wing League party led by Matteo Salvini captured around 18% of the vote in the Italian election while centre-right Forza Italia, led by former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, won 14%of the vote.

The far-right, anti-immigrant League party, headed by Matteo Salvini, took nearly 18 per cent of the vote compared to the 14 per cent won by Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia - a stinging personal defeat for the 81-year-old billionaire media mogul.

The leader of Italy's far-right League said on Tuesday he was the only possible candidate for prime minister for the centre-right after his party emerged as the strongest in the conservative bloc at Sunday's election. However, no party amassed enough votes to form a government on its own, and this makes weeks of political instability likely while government negotiations are underway.

Luigi Di Maio, the head of the biggest single party, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, said his group had emerged as the clear victor on Sunday, capturing around a third of the vote, and should take the helm of the next government.

The results of Italy's election show deep losses for the governing centre-left, massive gains for the Five Star Movement, and the populist league the dominant force in a right-wing coalition. The biggest loser was Democratic Party's former prime minister Matteo Renzi, "the global Left's Boy Wonder, the Italian Obama".

"The most important thing that Salvini says is 'Italians first.' I'm not racist but I think that people who come to Italy should come here to work and not commit crimes or violence like rapes", Evaristo Bellu, a 56-year-old supporter of the League, told AFP.

One newly elected MP for the far-right League (formerly the Northern League), Claudio Borghi, a strong advocate for Italy to leave the euro single currency, said the results sent a clear message to Brussels.

"The fact that we are representative of the entire nation projects us inevitably toward the government of the country", Di Maio said at a news conference in which he took no questions. Luigi Di Maio's attempts to pose as a credible Prime Minister and build a government team during the campaign were often met with incredulity and a lingering sense of artifice.

The 5-Star Movement considers itself an internet-based democracy, not a party, and views established political parties as a parasitic caste.

5-Star's campaign promises included a so-called "citizen's income", which would give Italians below the poverty line as much as 780 euros ($960) a month. The centre-right coalition, which includes other smaller parties, took around 37 percent.

The Five Star Movement are a peculiar group, they don't see themselves as a party but a movement as they even claim to not be on the left-right paradigm. The vast majority of Italians are not against immigrants, but they are frustrated and scared by the numbers and, most importantly, the inability of their government to provide them with proper social and economic support.

Its sharp-suited 31-year-old leader Luigi di Maio said he "felt the responsibility to form a government for Italy" after clinching 32 percent of the vote.

"It's a total defeat", Renzi said.

Any perception of cosy deals with other parties following the election risks alienating his core support from Italians angered by traditional politics. Nobody exactly knows what Grillo and his Five Star Movement want - loose anti-immigration and anti-EU rhetoric has been used as the platform of the movement together with promises to fight against corrupt and ineffective Italian institutions.

Piccoli said the center-right is best positioned to form a government, expected to secure 250-260 seats in the 630-member lower house. This has been the case in Italy too, with the 5-Star Movement backing down on initial commitments to a referendum, and pushing for reform instead.

The magnitude of this victory is paralleled only by the uncertainty surrounding this relatively new political formation.

The League blames the arrival of more than 600,000 migrants in the last four years on the outgoing center-left government.