Italians are going to the polls to vote for governors in regional elections in what is being seen as a test of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s popularity.
Until recently Berlusconi looked set for another landslide victory but the exclusion of his People of Freedom Party from the ballot in the key Rome province could cause an upset.
The PDL was dropped from the ballot sheet when party officials failed to register in time, an omission that could tip the balance in favour of the opposition.
The publication of opinion polls is banned, but before the blackout was imposed surveys indicated Pierluigi Bersani’s centre-left opposition, which already controls 11 of the country’s 13 regions,
could clinch the remaining two.
The election campaign has been marred by threats. The postal service intercepted a letter addressed to Berlusconi’s private residence containing a bullet.
The author warned: “We’ll be back” and added, “you will end up like a rat.”
A postal worker also suffered severe burns when a letter bomb sent to the right-wing anti-immigrant Northern League exploded.
Analysts say the government’s approval rating has fallen to 39 per cent while 17 per cent of voters are so disillusioned they have decided not to take part in the election process.