Italians back League

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The Independent Online
ROME - Fresh evidence that Italy's political scene is disintegrating came yesterday in a poll showing that the separatist Northern League would carry the large cities of northern Italy if elections were held now, writes Patricia Clough.

A poll taken in 10 cities from Florence northwards, published in the weekly Panorama, showed that the League would be the biggest party in each case, with an average 27 per cent of the vote. This is twice as much as it polled in these cities at the last general elections in April, and almost twice as much as the former Communist PDS, which would come second with 15 per cent. The Christian Democrats, who have ruled Italy since the war, would come third with 12 per cent.

Projected on to a national scale, however, such a result would make the League the second biggest party, with 15 per cent after the Christian Democrats with 25 per cent.

The poll indicated, however, that it could be primarily a protest vote: 49 per cent said they would vote for the League in disgust at the established parties, while only 26 per cent thought it capable of running their respective cities.

The League, led by the colourful, populist Umberto Bossi, has expanded spectacularly from 0.6 per cent five years ago by voicing the general revulsion at the corruption and moral decay in the traditional parties and the resentment felt by many northerners at having to support the supposedly parasitic South.

Just over a week ago the League won a sensational 34 per cent in Mantua city elections.

On Saturday, Mario Segni, the Christian Democrat who has been fighting for political, constitutional and electoral reform from within his arteriosclerotic party, is holding a congress when he is expected to found either a new party, a political alliance or a movement (he is keeping his intentions secret) to offer voters a clean, credible alternative.

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