Elections in Italy on Sunday and Monday may only be local but they will still provide a first snapshot of the popular mood since efforts to turn around the country’s financial situation began.
More than nine million Italians have until Monday afternoon to deliver their verdict on tax hikes introduced by technocrat Mario Monti. He was named prime minister in November when the country’s worsening economic crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi from office.
There elections are a test too for Berlusconi’s former ally, the Northern League. Now in opposition, it will get a chance to see how much public support it retains after Umberto Bossi stepped down as leader amid a party funds scandal.
All that should provide a boost for centre left figures but an increasingly sceptical electorate may well stay away altogether, or opt for the protest vote and candidates like maverick comedian Beppe Grillo who is leading a popular anti-euro movement.
Some polls show Grillo capturing a third of the vote. If he does it will be an indication of just how far faith in traditional politics and the entire single currency project has been eroded.