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Markets take fright over Italy election

Monday, February 25, 2013 - 02:10

Feb. 25 - Italian shares and bonds lost their earlier gains as no clear winner emerged after the polls closed. Election projections showed former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc leading in the upper house, contradicting initial exit polls and raising the possibility of deadlock in parliament. Joanna Partridge reports.

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Beppe Grillo was expected to cause a stir in the Italian elections. And the comedian-turned-politician seems to have done just that. First exit polls showed Grillo's Five-Star-Movement received 19% of the vote for the lower house - which would make it the single biggest party in the house. SOUNDBITE: Beppe Grillo, Comedian, saying (Italian): "This is a country in ruins. We have to rebuild it from start, look for new ideas, extraordinary ideas when it comes to schools, sanitation and how to run the country through citizens." Many Italians are fed up with high unemployment and austerity - and there were fears the vote would be split, leaving Italy without a strong and stable government able to implement reforms. That may now be the case. UPSOUND The initial exit polls also suggested the centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani had a narrow lead of around 34% for the lower and upper houses, ahead of Silvio Berlusconi's coalition with the Northern League. Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti's coalition came in at around 9.5%. Later vote projections put Berlusconi's centre-right ahead in the upper house, leading to fears of a hung parliament. That saw shares lose all their early gains, and the spread between Italian and German 10-year debt widened again. Riccardo Barbieri from Mizuho International says Grillo could be seen as the big winner in the vote. SOUNDBITE: Riccardo Barbieri, Chief European Economist, Mizuho International, saying (English): "People who voted for him didn't mind that some of his ideas were a bit off the wall, but they just focussed on the protest against corruption and this need for reform of the political system. Reforms like introducing tougher rules, tougher anti-corruption rules, reform of the judicial system." An inconclusive result or Berlusconi back in power are the nightmare scenarios for investors. Uncertainty is exactly what Italy - and the euro zone - doesn't need.

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Markets take fright over Italy election

Monday, February 25, 2013 - 02:10