Voter disaffection continues in Italian local elections

Marino leads heading into runoff with incumbent Alemanno

Voter disaffection continues in Italian local elections

(By Christopher Livesay) Rome, May 27 - Ignazio Marino of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) significantly led projections Monday at the close of Rome's mayoral elections that were destined to lead to a runoff as low voter turnout suggested enduring voter disaffection. With 43.14%, Marino was ahead of incumbent Mayor Gianni Alemanno of the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of Silvio Berlusconi with 32.2%, according to the interior ministry. "There's a great desire for change in this city. That's what we've learned. It's what I've heard in recent weeks from young people, from those who have no home to those who have no job," Marino told supporters at campaign headquarters. Despite the wide lead over Alemanno, the two are set to face off in a runoff ballot since Marino did not claim over 50% of the vote. "For me the match is still wide open. We have to fight until the end for the good of Rome," said Alemanno. "The runoff isn't the second half of a match but an entirely different match. "A significant number of people abstained, and for that reason we need everyone to turn out (to the runoff)". Voter turnout in Rome was down more than 20% as polls closed, the city said. Only 52.78% of Romans cast ballots over a two-day voting period, down from 73.52% at the last mayoral elections in 2008. In elections in 564 towns and cities across Italy Sunday and Monday, voter turnout was 62.38% of the eligible population, down almost 15 points. The ranks of disaffected Italian voters have been growing especially since inconclusive February general elections led to a hung parliament and two months of political gridlock, ended last month by the formation of the unprecedented - and highly volatile - left-right coalition government of Premier Enrico Letta. In a poll last month, fully 50% of those surveyed expressed no support for any current political party or movement. Even the 5-Star Movement (M5S) of comedian Beppe Grillo, which rode a highly successful anti-establishment platform to reap roughly 25% of the vote in February, showed signs of weakening at the local level Monday in Rome. Its candidate Marcello De Vito won only 12.4% of the vote, a far cry from the 27.7% the M5S won in the capital during general elections. He was trailed by Alfio Marchini's 9.1% of the vote. Heading into the vote, both Marchini and De Vito were seen as potential threats to Marino of the PD, which has seen disheartened voters, especially young ones, turn to untraditional parties in recent elections. PD leader Guglielmo Epifani said the center-left party was "satisfied, albeit cautious". "These are encouraging numbers and our blocs and candidates did well overall," he said. "The electorate awarded the seriousness and the ability of our politicians".

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