Left looks set to win Italy's big cities

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The Independent Online
THE prospect of Rome and Naples being governed by neo- Fascists receded last night as first projections in the mayoral election run-offs pointed to victories for left-wing candidates in all five main cities voting.

Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Fascist dictator, and Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-Fascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) were trailing their opponents by 10 and 5 per cent respectively, according to the projections by the Doxa and CIRM institutes based on early results.

Francesco Rutelli, a Green supported by a left-wing alliance, looked set to become the new mayor of Rome which had been dominated for most of the post-war period by the Christian Democrats, while Naples went to Antonio Bassolino, a former Communist Party official.

Northern League candidates appeared to have lost in Genoa and Venice to better- known figures. Adriano Sansa, a respected magistrate and forerunner of the 'Clean Hands' corruption investigators, had a lead of more than 15 per cent in Genoa, and Massimo Cacciari, a philosopher, was some 10 per cent ahead in Venice. Riccardo Illy, an independent backed by the left, had a similar lead over a more right-wing candidate in Trieste.

More than 8 million Italians voted yesterday in the second round of elections in 129 towns and cities and three provinces. The full results should become clear today. This round saw the picture in many places dramatically polarised between the left and far- right after the collapse of the discredited Christian Democrats left a political vacuum in the centre of the political spectrum.

The expected results indicated that the left-wing, which is dominated by the Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), the former Communists, has a strong chance of winning the general elections early next year. With the League evidently unable to expand outside the north, the neo-Fascists limited to the south and the Christian Democrats disappearing, it remains the only nationwide political force.

Achille Occhetto, the PDS leader, immediately hailed the projections as a 'historic result for the left' and a 'turning-point in national politics'. He said it was 'marvellous, and in a way moving, that moderate voters faced with the danger of a fascist advance, have chosen to align themselves with the left'. He hastened to reassure foreign markets and countries that the PDS was committed to the stability of the lira and serious economic discipline.

Alessandra Mussolini and Gianfranco Fini declared their substantial results to be a political victory for the MSI. Mr Fini sought to head off any violence by disappointed skinhead sympathisers which might spoil his attempts to give the party a respectable image by appealing to supporters to 'maintain calm and serenity'. This was a new political phase, he said, and 'support has been enormous'.

Their vote was indeed high, culled to a great extent from the more conservative former Christian Democrat supporters who had nowhere else to go. But their success may also have peaked: they are the most attractive candidates the MSI has and it seems unlikely they could do so well again.

(Photograph omitted)