Italian election 2018 EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know before Italy vote

When is the Italian election?

’s 18th general election since 1948 takes place on Sunday March 4, less than three months after President Sergio Matarella dissolved Parliament on December 28.

In Italy, general elections are held every five years, and this year take place alongside the Lombard regional election and the Lazio regional election.

On Sunday, Italians will head to the polls to cast their ballots for the 945 member Parliament, between 7am and 11pm local tim (6am and 11pm GMT).

The people will simultaneously cast their votes for the 630 meter lower chamber, known as the Camera dei Deuptati, and the 315 member Senate, known as the Camera del Senato.

Anyone who has reached the age of 18 is eligible to vote, but only Italians over 25 can vote for the members of the upper chamber Senate.

Who are the main parties and party leaders?

There are three main parties and their dominating leaders that are the focus of attention this week.

These factions are the centre-right Forza Italia (Force Italy FI) led by Silvio Berlusconi, the Partito Democratic (Democratic Party PD) led by Matteo Renzi and the Five Star Movement (M5S) led by Luigi Di Maio.

At the moment all indicators point towards a hung Parliament, which means the embittered rivals will need to find partners dos trike a coalition Government.

Rumours point towards potential centre-left coalition between the PD, Piu Eeuropa (More Europe), Lista Insieme and Civica Popolare.

FI could also strike a partnership with right-wing party The League, Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) and Noi con l’Italia (Us with Italy).

The M5S has so far vehemently rejected all mention of a coalition and hopes to secure a majority victory of its own.

Who will be the next Prime Minister of Italy?

Italy follows an election system similar to that of Britain, where the PM is not directly elected, but rather the Italian President typically appoints the leaders of the winning party or coalition.

Similarly, Italians do not vote in their President, but instead Parliament appoints an MP to the role every seven years.

In the case of FI, Mr Berlusconi will not be able to take on office again until 2019 due to being barred from holding public office because of a 2013 tax fraud conviction.

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What are the latest Italian Election 2018 polls?

Under Italian law, publishing opinion polls in the the penultimate two weeks of the electoral campaign is outlawed, but the last batch of polls paints a pretty clear picture of how the vote will go down.

Since the start of polling back in January 2018, the M5S has been a clear favourite to be the single biggest party in Parliament, followed by the PD.

A February 15 poll by Demopolis indicates a 28 percent vote for the M5S, a 22.5 percent vote for PD and 16.5 for Berlusconi’s FI.

Similar results were had in February 14 Euromedia poll of 800 people, which gave M5S 26.8 percent, PD 22.1 percent and FI 17.3 percent.

First exit polls will likely emerge as soon as the polling stations close, but it will take several hours before clear results flood in.