Mon, Jun 01, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Local polls to gauge Italy’s Renzi

AFP, ROME

Nuns view election information at a polling station in Vicenza, Italy, yesterday during regional elections.

Photo: EPA

Italians yesterday voted in regional elections seen as a key measure of the fading fortunes of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and an important test for center-left Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. About 20 million voters were eligible to elect governors in seven of the nation’s 20 regions, as well as the mayors of more than 700 municipalities.

The polls are the first in Italy since European elections a year ago in which Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) won with just more than 40 percent of the vote. Observers were also looking closely at the battle on the right between the anti-immigration Northern League, led by European Parliament Member Matteo Salvini, and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy).

The 78-year-old media magnate is eager to make a political comeback after his acquittal on charges of paying for underage sex and a stint of community service for tax fraud.

Thirty elected members of Forza Italia have already announced their departure to join the man once considered Berlusconi’s heir apparent, Italian Deputy Raffaele Fitto, who has broken away from the old leader.

A key test for Renzi was expected in the northern region of Liguria, where the PD’s candidate faces rivals in both a left-wing dissident and the right-wing Giovanni Toti, supported by both the Northern League and Forza Italia.

In Campania in the south, PD candidate Vincenzo De Luca, who is fighting the Forza Italia incumbent, has been named in a list of 17 “unpresentable” candidates by an anti-mafia commission.

De Luca has a conviction for abuse of power and faces trial on other charges, including fraud, and could be barred from taking office.

Although an embarrassment for Renzi, the 40-year-old prime minister’s popularity appears to remain high after nearly a year-and-a-half.

Polls opened at 7am and were to close at 11pm, with results expected today.

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