Rome, February 22 - A wave of bad weather that has gripped Italy is forecast to continue on Sunday and Monday, when Italians vote in winter for the first time in a national election, and the conditions may have a bearing on the result. Parts of northern Italy were covered in snow on Friday and schools in Catania were closed after a rainstorm swept cars away and forced many people to take to the roofs of the eastern Sicilian city Thursday. Forecasters said more snow and storms are likely on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri promised the bad weather would not make it impossible to vote in the areas affected. "It's the first time that we are voting in winter and there could be problems linked to the forecast bad weather," Cancellieri said Friday. "So we have alerted the local prefect's offices and fire brigades, so that they intervene to make it possible for all the voters to reach the polling stations". Bad weather may lead to a lower turnout, with the elderly and people who are registered to vote in towns different from the ones where they live less likely to vote. Pollsters have said this may hit the support of established groups, especially ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right alliance. Berlusconi's alliance was in second place in the polls before a pre-election survey blackout kicked in earlier this month, trailing Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left coalition by around 5%. They said new parties, such as the comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement and the new left-wing Civic Revolution Group of former anti-Mafia prosecutor Antonio Ingroia, are less likely to be hit as they tend to have younger supporters.
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di Giovanni Pastore