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Italy's local elections a big power test

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Italy's local elections a big power test


A test of Italy’s faith in Silvio Berlusconi is in its second day, as the country votes in local elections. The most significant are in Turin, Naples, Bologna and Milan — Italy’s business capital and the prime minister’s home town.

A series of scandals and trials have pushed Berlusconi’s popularity rating down to a record low for him, roughly 30 percent.

Nearly a quarter of Italians are casting their ballot in more than 1,300 towns. This is the first two-day round, with a run-off on May 29 and 30.

The weak centre-left hopes to turn the tide. It feels ready to topple the centre-right city government in Milan over disappointment at failures by the incumbent mayor to modernise. Milan is Berlusconi’s business bastion and political starting out point.

On the first day of voting, turnout was down slightly at 52 percent, but there was no sign of voters massively shunning the election because of disillusionment as had been predicted by opinion polls.

Besides his legal woes, Berlusconi is also blamed for failing to revive Italy’s chronically low growth. Today is also the day of a court hearing for Berlusconi, into bribery charges. He denies any wrongdoing.

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