Italy Latest: Topless Femen Protester Ambushes Berlusconi, Ballot Problems Raise Prospect of Legal Challenges

Berlusconi
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

ROME (AP) — A topless Femen activist has disrupted polling in Italy’s national election while ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi was casting his ballot.

The woman, who had the words “Berlusconi, you’ve expired” written in black marker on her topless torso, jumped onto the table at the Milan polling station as Berlusconi was voting.

Photographers in the room to shoot the scene jostled for position amid the chaos. Berlusconi was escorted out.

News reports recalled that Femen activists disrupted Berlusconi’s vote in 2013 as well.

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12:55 p.m.

Italy’s interior ministry says the turnout for Italy’s general election at noon (1100GMT) stands at 19.3 percent, five hours after polls opened.

Long lines awaited voters in Rome, Milan and other cities, and some voters expressed confusion at the ballots.

It was not possible to compare Sunday’s turnout to Italy’s last general election because the 2013 vote took place over two days.

Some ballot glitches were reported in Palermo, Mantova and in two small towns of Alessandria, where the wrong ballots were delivered. The ANSA news agency said the vote in those towns was suspended when election officials discovered the error after some 40 ballots were cast.

Some Palermo polling stations opened late because of the ballot glitch.

Polling stations were closing at 11 p.m. (2200 GMT)

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12:15 p.m.

Steve Bannon, the nationalist architect of Donald Trump’s White House campaign, says Italy’s election is “crucial” for the global populist movement and that if populists don’t win now they will in the future.

In an interview published in Sunday’s Corriere della Sera, Bannon says he came to Rome to “observe” the election. He says he’s particularly keen to see how the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and anti-immigrant, nationalist League party fare.

He said: “I think if they create a coalition among all the populists it would be fantastic, it would terrify Brussels and pierce it in its heart.”

Bannon, who crafted Trump’s anti-Muslim ban and backs a U.S. border wall with Mexico, said Italians have had enough of Europe’s migrant crisis. Describing himself as a “proud Catholic,” he said Pope Francis had nevertheless “exacerbated the migrant crisis” with his call for Europe to open its arms to refugees.

He said: “The pope is infallible in doctrine, but not in church policy in the world.”

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9:50 a.m.

The outgoing president of Italy’s Senate is voicing concern that some polling stations in Palermo were still closed hours into election day due to delays in getting proper ballots delivered.

In a tweet Sunday, Pietro Grasso said such delays and errors were “unacceptable.” Grasso, who broke away from the Democratic Party to start his own center-left party, said he hoped the problem wouldn’t discourage people from voting.

Overnight, Palermo authorities had to reprint about 200,000 ballots because the wrong ones were delivered. That delayed the opening of some stations.

In Rome, meanwhile, voters complained that the ballots were too complicated to understand.

Sister Vincenza, voting at a polling station on Rome’s Aventine hill, said the process was “all mixed up.” She said: “You feel as if you have gone there prepared but it is not that clear. Anyway, I have to go to Mass.”

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8:15 a.m.

The first glitches in Italy’s closely watched elections have started to be reported.

In Palermo, 200,000 ballots had to be reprinted overnight because the wrong ones were delivered. In Mantova, where voters are also voting for the leadership of the Lombardy region, the logo of the Democratic Party regional candidate was printed erroneously.

The ANSA news agency said there would likely be court challenges to the outcome as a result.

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