A strong showing by Romano Prodi’s centre-left bloc in local elections in Italy has ended Silvio Berlusconi’s hopes of a quick turnaround in electoral fortunes. Prodi’s coalition triumphed with big gains in Rome, Turin and Naples, comfortably passing its first test at the ballot box since last month’s general election.Prodi remained cautious, however: “If we win, it’s encouraging, if we lose, it’s discouraging, he said. “I can’t say any more than that.” Italians went to the polls to choose mayors and local councillors in over 1,200 towns and cities nationwide. Berlusconi had some good news from Milan and Sicily, where the centre-right governor won re-election. The centre-left appeared to have increased its share of the vote in all the large cities compared with the last mayoral elections five years ago. Analysts say lower voter turnout penalised Berlusconi, whose bloc tends to have more trouble getting its supporters to the polls. The vote could strengthen Prodi’s hand as he tackles deteriorating public finances. It is thought the country could face a downgrade of its debt by rating agencies unless he can push through unpopular reforms with his razor-thin majority.