ROME May 7 Left wing and protest candidates
made strong gains in Italy's local elections on Monday and the
centre-right PDL party of former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi saw heavy losses, exit polls showed, as voters across
Europe vented anger over austerity policies.
The results, following the victory of French Socialist
Francois Hollande and major losses for traditional big parties
in Greece on Sunday, will add to pressure for European leaders
to ease measures adopted to counter the financial crisis.
Prime Minister Mario Monti is not in the race but for the
two main parties which support his technocrat government in
parliament, the vote in some of Italy's biggest towns and cities
will be the most significant barometer of support ahead of
national elections next year.
The 5 star movement led by Beppe Grillo, a maverick comic
who wants Italy to leave the euro and default on its debt, made
big gains, including a score of nearly 19 percent in the
northern city of Parma and 15 percent in Genoa.
In Verona, Flavio Tosi, the popular Northern League mayor of
the city shrugged off a corruption scandal which has rocked his
party, the biggest opposition group in parliament, to return to
office without the need for a runoff ballot.
In Palermo, veteran anti Mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando,
of the opposition Italy of Values party and backed by the hard
left Refounded Communist party, had a big lead after the first
In Genoa, Marco Doria, supported by a leftist coalition
including both the PD and Refounded Communism, was heading for a
first round victory.
Early Interior Ministry figures suggested the turnout had
fallen to 67 percent, down from 74 percent in the previous round
of local elections.
More than 9 million people or some 20 percent of the
electorate were eligible to vote in more than 900 towns and
cities across Italy in the first significant election since
Monti came to office last year.
(Reporting by Rome bureau; Editing by Louise Ireland)