Italy's centre-right may win outright majority at elections, study shows

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By Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) - A bloc of conservative parties, led by the far-right Brothers of Italy, looks likely to win a clear majority at the next elections, which might come as early as September, a study of recent opinion polls shows.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi tendered his resignation last week after the populist 5-Star Movement refused to back the government in a confidence vote at the Senate.

President Sergio Mattarella rejected his resignation and instead asked Draghi to address parliament this week, hoping that unity will return to government ranks at a time of international tumult and economic tension.

However, if the coalition row is not resolved and Mattarella has to dissolve parliament, the conservatives are well placed to win outright victory for the first time since 2008, according to a study by the YouTrend and Cattaneo Zanetto & Co polling firms.

The rightist bloc, including Matteo Salvini's League party, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, will win up to 221 seats out of 400 in the lower house and 108 out of 200 in the upper-house Senate, the study said.

The Brothers of Italy currently tops the polls with support pegged at more than 22%, ahead of the main centre-left group, the Democratic Party (PD).

In the event of victory, Meloni would be in pole position to become prime minister, although she could nominate someone else from her camp if she wanted.

"Certainly if this crisis leads to early elections it is likely to be a big advantage for the centre-right led by Giorgia Meloni," Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of YouTrend, told Reuters.

PD leader Enrico Letta had been looking to forge an electoral alliance with 5-Star and other groups opposed to the right to try to thwart a conservative victory at the elections, which have to take place in early 2023.

But the recent political turmoil has put a huge strain on ties between the two parties, meaning that they might end up standing separately, splitting the anti-right vote.

In this case, the study predicted that the centre-right would win almost 60% of the seats - an unprecedented landslide in Italy's normally splintered parliament.

Under Italy's election law, 36% of parliamentarians in both the upper and lower houses are elected on a first-past-the-post basis, with the rest chosen by proportional representation based on separate party lists.

This mixed system benefits parties that form alliances to avoid diluting support for their political family.

The new study showed that the only way the centre-left could rein in the right would be to create a broad coalition including 5-Star and an array of small leftist and centrist parties.

However, the centrists, which include former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva party, have repeatedly denounced 5-Star and ruled out any electoral alliance with it.

YouTrend's Pregliasco said 5-Star's role in triggering the current political crisis made forming such a broad coalition highly unlikely.

"It was already difficult," he said. "The 5-Star rift makes it much more difficult."

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Nick Macfie)

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