“Surprised and sad” was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s reaction, according to his aides, after his centre-right bloc lost ground in Sunday and Monday’s local elections.
What hurt the most was his side taking second place in his powerbase, the financial capital Milan: 48 percent for rival Giuliano Pisapia, with centre-right incumbent mayor Letizia Moratti trailing by more than six points. The run-off vote will be in two weeks.
“The second round could be a good thing for Milan,” said one Milanese. Another one said: “I can’t stand Moratti anymore, and let the Northern League drop the evil dwarf!”
Main Berlusconi ally the Northern League fared worse than expected on its own turf. The centre-left swept Turin and won a first-round victory in its stronghold Bologna, although Berlusconi’s PDL party led in Naples.
The four cities were the most important contests in the elections in 1,310 towns — like a referendum for Berlusconi, midway through his fourth prime ministerial term.
The results confirmed opinion polls showing Berlusconi’s popularity has been undermined by a sex scandal, corruption and tax fraud trials and a sputtering economy — leaving him “surprised and sad”.