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Italian far-right leader Meloni eyes breakthrough in mayoral votes -Breaking


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Silvio Berlusconi (former Italian Prime Minister) gestures to Matteo Salvini (Leader of Forza Italia), as Giorgia Moloni, Leader of Brothers of Italy, looks on. REU


By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters – Italians voted for mayors Sunday in nearly 1,000 Italian towns and cities. It was an opportunity for Giorgia Melonsi, the far-right leader, to assert her control over the centre-right alliance before a parliamentary election next year.

Meloni (45) is the leader of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party. It tops opinion polls but has steadily lost support from its rightist ally, the League, headed by Matteo Salvini.

Sunday’s vote, which will be the final major test prior to next year’s national elections, will determine if Meloni’s lead in polls translates into votes.

There are approximately 9 million eligible Italians to vote in the elections for the mayors of the country. The largest centers at stake were Palermo, Sicilia’s capital, and Genoa (Northwestern Port) which represent the fifth and sixth most populous cities respectively.

While voting will close at 11 pm (2100 GMT), the count will start on Monday, 2 PM GMT. If no candidate receives 50%, there will be a runoff on Monday 26 June.

Total 26 regional and provincial capitals are up for grabs. This includes Verona and Padua (north), Parma in central-north and Taranto (south), and Messina in Sicily.

The Centre-right bloc of Forza Italyalia, League Brothers of Italy, and Forza Italia currently hold 18 of them. They are led by Silvio Berlusconi (86), a former prime minister.

If it adds five more cities to its tally, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), 5-Star Movement alliance will make progress. Brothers of Italy will then be the party that has the most support.

Brothers of Italy is often accused of having neofascist elements in its supporters. However, it won just 4% of votes at the most recent national election.

Now, it polls at around 22%. This is due to Meloni’s decision last February not joining the wide coalition backing Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Brothers of Italy has been the sole significant opposition party.

On Sunday, five Italian referendums took place on reforms in the justice system that were sponsored by Salvini’s League.

But the referendums are headed for failure as the turnout at midday was just 7%. There is no chance the vote will reach the necessary 50% to be valid.