With votes still being tallied, Italy’s centre-left government looks set for a strong showing in local elections seen as its first big test. In at least three major cities, projected results favour mayoral candidates fielded by the centre-left bloc. They failed to cause an upset in Sicily though, where centre-right governor Salvatore Cuffaro was re-elected. However in Rome, Naples and Turin, where Sergio Chiamparino was returned as mayor, government candidates look to have a clear advantage.
That is good news for Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who narrowly won a general election last month. However he was playing down views that the poll is a test for the government. “If we win, it’s encouraging, if we lose, it’s discouraging,” he said. “I can’t say any more than that.”
Mario Baccini of the opposition Christian Democrats blamed lower-than-expected turnout for the centre-right’s poor showing in early results. “It seems the real winners were the abstainers,” he said. Opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi was hoping the polls would allow him to avenge last month’s general election defeat. Instead, projections suggest Prodi’s bloc has increased its share of the vote in all the large cities – even the centre-right stronghold of Milan.