February 26, 2018

Populists' surge in Italy stops in voting for Italy's mayors

13 June 2017, 11:46 | Kara Nash

Mayor Elections in Italy Test Party Support ahead of Parliamentary Polls

Five Star Movement's leader Beppe Grillo waves after casting his ballot for Italy's mayoral elections in Genoa Italy Sunday

Italy's populist 5-Star Movement was seeking to expand power in mayoral elections.

Italy's 5Star Movement, the populist challenger to the country's established parties, suffered a shocking defeat on Sunday, lowering the risk of snap elections being called in 2017, according to analysts.

But the failure to advance to the second round in any of Italy's major cities will be a disappointment for Grillo's party, which has been shown as neck-and-neck with the Democratic Party in nationwide opinion polls.

5-Star had been hoping to build on its success past year, when it took charge of Rome after winning a landslide.

Among residents voting in Genoa was comic Beppe Grillo, a founder of the 5-Star Movement and its galvanizing force.

A closer contest is expected in the northern port city of Genoa, where the center-right hopes to win control from the incumbent center-left.

Newspaper headlines and pundits pounced on the results, saying the 5-Star might have peaked, but Grillo shot back on Monday, confidently predicting his group would bounce back.

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The collapse of that accord seems to have reduced the chances of a snap election in the autumn, but the broad coalition backing Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is fragile and analysts say an early vote still can not be ruled out.

The likely losses at a local level contrast with the mayoral races of June 2016, when the party's candidates gained control of both Rome and Turin.

Some 9 million voters will elect mayors in more than 1,000 towns and cities, with runoffs to be held on June 25 where no candidate gets more than 50 percent in the first round.

Silvio Berlusconi's center right party and Matteo Salvini's right-wing Northern League have about 13 percent support.

"Compared with local ballots held past year, which delivered very strong results for the movement as it managed to secure critical cities such as Rome and Turin, municipalities contested this time were smaller and less systematic at national level", the analysts said.

The centre-left was ahead in L'Aquila, while its veteran candidate in the Sicilian capital Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, looked poised to be re-elected at the first round.

The current parliament's mandate does not run out until early 2018, but Italy's main four parties had been trying to reach a deal which would pave the way for general elections in the autumn.

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