Polls Go Dark With Many Voters Undecided: Italy Campaign Trail

(Bloomberg) -- Italians go to the polls on March 4 in a close election with voters divided over the country’s relationship with the European Union, taxes, and immigration. Here’s your daily guide to the latest news.

Two weeks out and a lot of Italians still have no idea who they want in the next government. As much as a third of potential voters are undecided, and as Chiara Albanese and Marco Bertacche explain, they’re mostly women, middle-aged, without university degrees and disappointed with former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Take a good look at today’s opinion polls, because they’re the last you’ll see (legally) as a two-week blackout period begins. The center-right coalition is leading, but is short of a workable majority. A poll in La Stampa put them at 37 percent while Il Sole said 34.8 percent. Five Star followed with 27 percent in the La Stampa poll and 29.5 percent for Il Sole.

We’ve done a series of surveys of our own. Andre Tartar spoke to 15 economists and they told him the most likely specific outcome of the election, with a one-in-three chance, would be a so-called “grand coalition” between the ruling Democratic Party and the more conservative Forza Italia, led by billionaire Silvio Berlusconi. There’s about a quarter chance of a new vote and about a one-in-five chance Berlusconi’s coalition wins outright.

The country’s top executives don’t even want a new prime minister. When asked who they’d prefer, they told Tommaso Ebhardt, Chiara Albanese and Daniele Lepido they want to keep what they’ve got. All of the 17 CEOs in the FTSE MIB index who responded chose sitting Premier Paolo Gentiloni as their favorite option.

Berlusconi, an ex-CEO himself, denies he’ll ever negotiate a grand coalition, but in a television interview he called Gentiloni “sharp and gentlemanly” and said he’d be a success in business. Gentiloni is in Berlin today, where he may hope for an endorsement from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Quote of the Day: “I am a used machine that the Italians have already tested: whether as a businessman, a statesman, or a sportsman, I’ve also sought out difficult challenges and always brought them home victoriously.” Berlusconi on RAI Television

Who’s tweeting: Renzi touted strong 2017 export figures for Italy to argue that the center-left government has overseen an economic revival. Northern League leader Matteo Salvini, who’s on a rare campaign foray in the south, kept up his usual missives about local disturbances linked to foreigners. Stung by revelations that some Five Star deputies haven’t donated half their paychecks, the party’s Luigi Di Miao pushed a proposal to cut all parliamentary salaries in half.

In case you missed it, the Italian economy grew less than expected, markets are starting to wake up to the election risk, and Berlusconi is your dog’s best friend.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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