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Left-wing, grassroots candidates lead local Italian vote

'We ran wrong candidates' says PdL's La Russa

07 May, 18:55
Left-wing, grassroots candidates lead local Italian vote (ANSA) - Rome, May 7 - Local Italian elections on Monday produced good results for left-wing and grassroots candidates and bad ones for former premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party in battleground cities, while an incumbent mayor in Verona from the right-wing Northern League was the only candidate to win on the first ballot despite his party's legal woes. "We chose the wrong candidates and I'm not afraid to admit it," said former defense minister Ignazio La Russa, a PdL heavyweight. "There's a mania to select (the candidates) with the best looks instead of knowing what their experience is, while the people want trustworthy candidates, and for those in Palermo Leoluca Orlando is more trustworthy". Veteran anti-Mafia campaigner Orlando of the opposition Italy of Values party had 47% of the vote for mayor of Palermo, just shy of the majority needed to avoid a runoff on May 20-21.

The grassroots Five Star party, headed by Italian comic and activist Beppe Grillo who supports leaving the eurozone, won almost 19% in Parma, enough to go into the second round, and 15% in Genoa, where it placed third. Incumbent Flavio Tosi of the Northern League regained the mayor's seat in Verona with a majority of votes, avoiding a runoff. That election was seen as a test of public approval for the League, which is currently in the grip of a major scandal involving Umberto Bossi who resigned as its leader in March when his family was linked to probes into the alleged fraudulent use of party money.

Marco Doria, supported by a leftist coalition including the Democratic Party (PD), was leading after the first round in Genoa with 46% of the vote. Voter-turnout levels were down in both days of voting, according to the interior ministry. On Monday the turnout at the end of the second day of voting, with around nine million Italians eligible to elect the councils of around 1,000 Italian towns and cities, was 66.9% compared to 73.7% at the last equivalent ballot.

Turnout on Sunday was down from 54.8% to 49%. Analysts said there was widespread skepticism about the effectiveness of a political class that needed to call in former European commissioner Monti last year to head a technocrat administration to stop Italy's debt crisis spiralling out of control.

The votes are seen as a major barometer of public mood ahead of general elections next year.

Italy's three big mainstream political groups - the PdL, the PD and a coalition of centrist parties called the Third Pole - all support Monti's emergency government.