Center left sweeps major cities in mayoral elections

Rome, Siena, Treviso go to Democratic Party

Center left sweeps major cities in mayoral elections

Rome, June 10 - Italian voters elected centre-left mayors in 11 major cities, including the capital of Rome, strengthening the Democratic Party (PD) at the national level at the close of polls on Monday. Outgoing Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno, a high-ranking member of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party, conceded defeat after he was soundly beaten by the PD's Ignazio Marino. A similar story was playing out around the country as 67 municipalities all held electoral run-off votes on Sunday and Monday. The surprising strength of the PD at the municipal level should give additional strength at the national level to Premier Enrico Letta and his PD in the fragile alliance it has built with three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. Voter turnout was surprisingly low, possibly reflecting the population's disillusionment with a long-running and severe recession and an ugly general election in February that led to two months of parliamentary gridlock and vicious infighting before the alliance between the center left and the centre right was formed. Nationally, only about 48.5% of eligible voters cast ballots. That's a significant drop from the 59.7% turnout in the first round, which was already down from similar local elections in 2008. Besides PD victories in Rome, the centre-left won in Brescia, Iglesias, Viterbo, Avellino, Barletta and Lodi In the northeastern city of Treviso, Giovanni Manildo upset a 20-year tradition of dominance by Giancarlo Gentilini. In fact, said Gentilini, the PdL was facing defeat all over the country. "We lost everywhere," he said, adding he felt the party did not give him enough support to win. "They threw me in the mud of the left". In Tuscany, Siena's PD Mayor Bruno Valentini was returned to office with 52.12% of votes; in Imperia, Carlo Capacci of the PD won with 76.1% and Ancona voters elected the centre left's Valeria Mancinelli with 62.6% of the vote. The PD is the biggest group in parliament but it has been ravaged by internal divisions after former party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani squandered a big lead in the polls before February's election by running a colourless campaign. Berlusconi and the PdL had been emboldened by the PD's troubles, as well the PdL's rise to first place in opinion polls, and have made a series of policy demands.

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