Berlusconi faces defeat in crucial Milan election

Silvio Berlusconi's mayoral candidates lost elections in the premier's stronghold of Milan and in the southern city of Naples on Monday in outcomes that could undermine his government's stability and his leadership.

Berlusconi had campaigned hard ahead of the local elections and urged Italians to go to the polls to signal their support for his conservative coalition government.



But final results from the runoff elections held on Monday and Sunday appeared to support recent opinion polls that have shown his popularity slipping as he faces a trial in Milan in a prostitution scandal. Critics have said most of his energy has been involved defending himself from charges that he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan teenager then used the premier's office to try to cover it up.



The votes mark a setback for the 74-year-old Berlusconi personally and for his local candidates, analysts say, and will likely raise questions about his leadership.



In Milan, with all polling stations reporting, Berlusconi's candidate, Mayor Letizia Moratti, won about 45 percent of the vote in the runoff against Giuliano Pisapia of the center-left. Milan, Italy's financial and fashion capital and Berlusconi's own power base, had been run by conservative mayors for almost two decades.



The city also is a crucial power base of a key government ally, the Northern League, and the poor showing is likely to deepen rifts between Berlusconi and the League's leader, Umberto Bossi. The League had been critical of the electoral campaign in Milan and lukewarm toward Moratti and it will no doubt be angry about having lost north Italy's most important city.



In the Naples run-off, the leftist candidate Luigi de Magistris, a former magistrate, won by a landslide: 65 percent of the vote, compared to 35 percent for Berlusconi's candidate, Gianni Lettieri, according to the final returns.



The center-left has long controlled Naples, but Berlusconi had been hoping to take control of it as the city grapples with a long-standing garbage collection crisis and high unemployment rate, especially among the youth. The premier has also repeatedly vowed to clean up the city's streets from piles of garbage, and sent soldiers to help collect them just before the vote.



"This vote marks a clear defeat of the right, a strategic defeat," said Stefano Folli, a top political analyst. "It gives the sense that Berlusconi's political season is drawing to a close," he said. "Let's see if he will be capable of handling his own succession."



Berlusconi was in Romania for bilateral talks on Monday. His allies acknowledged the defeat but sought to downplay any national political repercussions.



"We are not on the eve of the end of Berlusconi, or of the Berlusconi season, or of the government," said Fabrizio Cicchitto, an ally of the premier. "There's a huge difference between local elections and political elections," he said, adding that the success of local candidates does not always translate into votes at general elections.



But he conceded, "We are faced with a necessary political reflection."



Berlusconi went on trial in April on charges that he paid for sex with an underage Moroccan prostitute and tried to covered it up by using his influence.



The latest ballots were his first electoral test since the trial opened. Another three court cases — all related to his business — are active against him in Milan. He has denied all the charges against him.



The run-offs were called for candidates who had failed to capture more than half the vote in the first round two weeks ago. In the first round, Berlusconi's opponents retained control of two other important cities in the north: Turin and Bologna.



In all, more than 5.5 million Italians were eligible to vote in the run-offs to elect mayors and other local representatives across Italy. Turnout in the run-offs for mayoral races stood at 60 percent, but in Milan the figure was higher — 67.2 percent — in a sign of how significant the race was.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This highly successful business...

Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - Bedfordshire - £30,000 + Excellent package

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Engineer - Fire Security Systems - OTE £60k

£27500 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Operating in the South East pri...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn