Italian voters revolt and turn to Mafia crusader

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LEOLUCA ORLANDO, the anti-Mafia crusader who promised Palermo 'normality' after decades of domination by the Mafia and its accomplice politicians, was overwhelmingly elected its mayor in municipal elections yesterday, according to exit polls.

While the leader of the left-wing, Catholic grouping La Rete (the Net) - which is the south's response to the Northern League protest movement in the north - was assured of victory with 66-74 per cent, other left-wing candidates were leading in the six major cities to vote for new mayors and town councils to replace their old, discredited local politicians.

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Italy's former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and niece of the actress Sophia Loren, contrary to some expectations, came only second in Naples with about 29 per cent and appeared to have only slender chances of being elected in the run-off on 5 December against Antonio Bassolino, who took over 40 per cent.

But she and her fellow neo-Fascist, Gianfranco Fini, who came second in Rome, consoled themselves with the fact that the neo-Fascists had clearly become the biggest single party in the two cities, luring huge numbers of voters from the Christian Democrats. 'We have given the old partitocracy a sound beating,' she said.

The Christian Democrats, who are trying to recycle themselves as a clean, honest, centre party, had devastating losses of up to 24 per cent in places. None of their candidates seemed likely to be in the run-offs between the two leading candidates in any of the cities, except for Trieste, where different party factions are backing different candidates.

A statement by the party admitted the blow was 'severe', and said it had been too soon for its clean-up to have had an effect on voters. It warned that polarisation between the left-wing on one side and the neo-Fascists and Northern League 'complicates rather than simplifies the chances of governability'.

Achille Occhetto, leader of the former Communists, the only older party to survive, described the exit poll results as wonderful. 'The whole of Italian politics has changed.' He calculated that although the League is the biggest party in the north, the ex-Communists, now more like Social Democrats, are biggest nationwide.

Vote polarised, page 9

(Photograph omitted)