Local Elections to Set Tone for Italian Parliamentary Race
ROME (AP) _ One vote may go a long way.
Elections on Sunday will not only decide a full plate of regional and municipal elections but should set the table for the main course: parliamentary elections.
Sunday’s vote offers the first direct test of the two big political alliances formed after media magnate Silvio Berlusconi’s government collapsed in December.
A victory by Berlusconi’s conservative bloc may give momentum to his quest for a parliamentary vote before the summer. If his left-leaning opponents gain ground, elections may be put off to at least the fall.
``We have two hypothesis: an overwhelming victory for Berlusconi’s group and elections may be right away; an overwhelming victory for the center-left bloc and elections will be put off,″ said Gino Guigni, head of the Italian Socialist party, a member of the leftist alliance.
The rub is that Sunday’s balloting will not change the balance in parliament, which is about evenly split between the two factions. Berlusconi hopes a strong showing would swing some votes his way and give him the margin to dump his successor, Premier Lamberto Dini.
Voting will take place for 15 regional councils, 76 provincial councils and 5,136 municipal councils, ranging from cities including Florence and Bologna to very small villages.
Some of the key races include the Lazio region, which includes Rome, and the Milan area region of Lombardia. Run-off elections are set for May 5.
The campaign has brought out more than 236,000 candidates from the pious to the provocative.
In the Lazio region, one of the candidates, 30-year-old Monica Ciccolini, has appeared in racy photo layouts published by her husband, a gas company executive who also publishes the Italian edition of Penthouse and other magazines.
One of Ciccolini’s opponents is Daniela Pacelli, the second cousin of the Pope Pius XII.
The races also point to a possible new trend among Italian politicians _ ever younger. A survey by the Censis group said the median age of candidates was 44, the lowest ever. Many of the political hopefuls are students and housewives, the report noted.
Dini, a former state bank executive, has promised to step down after his deficit-cutting measures are under way. He still has his toughest challenges ahead: reform of Italy’s bloated pension system.
Another obstacle to spring parliamentary elections is an upcoming referendum vote. President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro appears reluctant to allow an election campaign to overlap with preparations for the 12 referendum questions, including one that could force Berlusconi to sell two of his three private television stations.
Political quarrels have driven down the lira. The currency last month hit record lows against the German mark and it lost ground against the dollar.