World News

Italy's ruling PD party slips further in polls, newspaper reports

FILE PHOTO: Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures as he talks during a meeting of Democratic Party (PD) in Rome, Italy February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s ruling Democratic Party (PD) has lost further ground over its rivals after political infighting and fallout from a banking scandal, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.

The poll comes just weeks before parliament is expected to be dissolved before elections early next year.

The PD share of the vote fell 1 percent, from eight days ago, to 23.4 percent, its lowest level in five years, according to the Ipsos poll in the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Support for the PD, headed by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, has fallen steadily in recent months, with the group damaged by deep schisms and personality clashes.

The party has also come under fire over allegations cabinet undersecretary Maria Elena Boschi took steps to try to save Banca Etruria, a local bank based in her home town of Arezzo. Boschi has repeatedly denied exerting any political pressure in deciding the future of Banca Etruria.

The Ipsos poll said growing support from smaller allies had raised the center-left bloc’s share of the vote to 26.2 percent, as of Dec. 14, from 24.8 percent. That was well short of the 36 percent polled by the center-right bloc led by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. It was also behind the 28.2 percent share of the 5-Star anti-establishment party.

The 5-Star Movement is predicted to emerge as the largest single party in the next parliament, but it has repeatedly ruled out joining any coalition.

Italy has just introduced a new electoral system that is expected to handicap 5-Star, favoring instead mainstream political blocs.

Italy’s parliament is likely to be dissolved between Christmas and the New Year, opening the way for national elections in early March that look unlikely to produce a clear winner.

Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Larry King