The count is now underway in Italy’s local elections, which are being closely scrutinised for any signs that this may be the beginning of the end for Silvio Berlusconi’s government.
Near-complete results suggest Milan will swing left after being in Berlusconi’s pocket for two decades, and the left will hold Naples.
Milan is the key, where Giuliano Pisapia is in the lead. All the great social and political movements to have swept Italy in the last 150 years began in this industrial powerhouse. Berlusconi turned this local vote into a referendum on him and his government.
In Naples Luigi de Magistris holds the advantage. Both campaigns have been noisy, bitter affairs.
Berlusconi’s key coalition ally the Northern League is increasingly frustrated that their rising fortunes are being dragged down by the prime minister’s fading star, which may provide the recipe for a split and government collapse. The full results are imminent.