ROME — Italy's political leaders eyed the country's latest regional election Sunday in hopes the outcome would strengthen their hand after eight weeks of wrangling over the makeup of the next national government.
Some 1.1 million people in the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia were eligible to vote for their governor and regional legislature. The region's outgoing governor is from the Democratic Party, which was trounced in the national parliamentary election held last month.
The leader of the right-wing League, Matteo Salvini, looked to the regional balloting to give his north-based party weight in the slog to form a government following the inconclusive March 4 general election. During that vote, Salvini sought the Italian premiership in a center-right alliance that included former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party. Berlusconi's forces were eclipsed by the League, and the two men's political relationship has appeared frayed of late.
The populist 5-Star Movement emerged as the biggest party in Parliament in the March vote, while the center-right alliance controls the legislature's largest bloc of seats. Neither has enough seats to govern alone.
A string of political vetoes thwarted President Sergio Mattarella's efforts to see if the center-right and the 5-Stars could muster a solid majority in Parliament and govern. Berlusconi, who during the campaign branded the 5-Stars as "more dangerous than communists," refuses to have his forces govern in a coalition with them.
Top officials of the Democratic Party, which led the outgoing government and splintered into factions under former Premier Matteo Renzi's leadership, plan to huddle Thursday to see if they want to explore the possibility of the Democrats and 5-Stars governing together.
Should that possibility sputter, Salvini has expressed openness to a deal between his anti-migrant League and the 5-Stars. That could mean his breaking with Berlusconi.
Friuli Venezia Giulia's voters narrowly favored the League over the 5-Star Movement in March.
Before Sunday's election, League leader Salvini stumped heavily for an aide who is running to be regional governor.