BAD weather at the outset of voting has further increased the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of the two-day Italian general election as Beppe Grillo, the maverick left-wing campaigner, looked set to surpass expectations.
Heavy snowfall in the north, high winds further south and volcanic activity in Sicily combined to pose hurdles yesterday to voters choosing a replacement for the caretaker technocratic government that has led Italy for 15 months.
The conditions could deter indecisive voters and the elderly, "who are considered to be the most faithful to the traditional parties", according to the 'Corriere della Sera' newspaper.
The forecast low turnout would hurt the prime ministerial hopes of Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the centre-left, which has led polls.
Less likely to stay at home will be supporters of Mr Grillo, a comedian who leads the Five Star Movement. They are seen as younger and more determined to make their vote count.
In Sicily, which has hitherto been seen as neck and neck between Mr Bersani and the centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, Mr Grillo is now seen as a contender.
"You (politicians) have consumed the entire country, the lives of thousands of people," he told a frenzied crowd of fans last week at a Milan rally, amid boos and shouts of "Thieves! Thieves!" and "Send them packing".
It is a popular demand. His party could claim up to 20pc of the vote.
And in doing so, it threatens to plunge Italy back into chaos, just as it was beginning to show signs of stability.
Voting closes at 2pm today and results will trickle through by the evening. (© Daily Telegraph, London)