The Italian government of Romano Prodi is facing its first major electoral test a year after coming to power. More than 10-million people are choosing seven provincial governors, and 862 town and city councils. The opposition say if they make significant inroads, they will press hard for a general election.
Prodi has already said the local elections have no influence on national government, but his coalition is flimsy; he nearly lost his job in February in a no-confidence vote; passengers have been stranded by a strike at the national airline and rubbish has piled up in Naples over a waste disposal crisis.
The centre-right former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi has been out campaigning all week, hoping that a strong anti-Prodi vote will weaken the Prime Minister’s mandate, making it even harder to serve a full five year term.