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Low turnout in local Italian election shows rising disillusion
Fewer Italians than usual have turned out to vote in local elections that end on Monday, displaying their growing disillusionment with politics in a country run by an uneasy left-right coalition.
Center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta hopes for a boost after his Democratic Party (PD) threw away a 10-point lead before February's inconclusive general election, but, even if results go his way, low turnout would show support for mainstream parties is, at best, lukewarm.
Even the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which rode the wave of popular discontent to take almost a quarter of the national vote in February, could fare badly after its support fell sharply in the first round.
By the end of the first day of voting on Sunday, only 34 percent of voters had turned out, down from about 42 percent at the same stage in the first round at the end of May, in which there was an overall turnout of about 62 percent. Some 75 percent of eligible Italians voted in February.
Voting resumed at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) and will close at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT), with results expected by the evening.
In Rome, where Mayor Gianni Alemanno, of Silvio Berlusconi's center-right PDL is fighting a strong challenge from the PD's Ignazio Marino, turnout slumped to 32 percent from 38 percent at the same stage in the first round, in which only about one in two Romans voted.
A center-left win in Rome would give a much needed morale boost to Letta as he seeks to impose his authority on a coalition where some Italians believe Berlusconi exerts greater influence.
With constant internal bickering, the government's popularity has dropped as few Italians have confidence it can pull the economy out of stagnation.
Letta has had to reconcile competing demands for tax cuts and job-creating measures to get Italy out of nearly two years of recession with pledges to shore up public finances and cut state debt.
Some 6 million Italians are eligible to vote in cities including Rome, Siena, Ancona, Brescia and Viterbo and several towns across Sicily.
[Source: By Catherine Hornby, Reuters, Rome, 10Jun13]
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