Rome

First results in Sicily show centre left ahead

PdL's Crocetta second with 27%

First results in Sicily show centre left ahead

Rome, October 29 - The first results from Sunday's regional elections in Sicily put the centre left's candidate ahead followed by the man backed by ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. Rosario Crocetta, who is supported by the centre-left Democratic Party and the centrist UDC, had 31.36% of the votes after the count was completed in 236 of the 5,307 constituencies. Nello Musumeci, who represents the PdL and other smaller centre-right/right-wing parties, had 27.15% of the votes counted so far. Gianfranco Micciche' of the so-called Grande Sud (Great South) coalition had 17% and Giancarlo Cancelleri, who is standing for the anti-establishment Five Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo, was fourth with 15%. The elections are a big test of Italian public opinion ahead of general elections next year. They are seen as especially important for the PdL, which has been hit by two big scandals in Lazio and Lombardy and is reportedly in turmoil after Berlusconi at the weekend threatened to bring down Premier Mario Monti's emergency government. Berlusconi issued the threat after being convicted of fraud on Friday but some senior PdL members, including party Secretary Angelino Alfano, are said to be against trying to cause the government's demise. The real 'winner' of Sunday's vote was said to be the abstainers. Over half of Sicily's voters snubbed the elections for a new regional assembly and governor in what is being interpreted as a sign of the Italian public's disaffection with its political class. Just over 47% of the 2,203,885 eligible voters used the ballot box, compared to 66.68% in the 2008 elections in the region. A series of recent corruption scandals affecting parties on various parts of the political spectrum has reinforced skepticism about the world of politics among many Italians. Monti, who has been at the helm of an unelected government of non-political technocrats since the financial crisis forced Silvio Berlusconi to resign as prime minister last year, regularly scores much higher than the leaders of the main parties in approval polls even though he has pushed through a series of unpopular austerity measures. The elections were called in the region after governor Raffaele Lombardo quit in July following an indictment for colluding with the Mafia. The vote count started across Sicily at 8:00 local time.

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