Berlusconi faces tough local-election fights

Submitted by webmaster on Sat, 28/05/2011 - 11:44

May 27, 2011 - 18:28

(ANSA) - Milan, May 27 - Premier Silvio Berlusconi faces local-election battles in Milan and Naples this weekend that could hurt his government, analysts say.

If the run-offs in Milan and Naples go against his People of Freedom (PdL) party, the Italian media say, the premier's personal standing will be affected because he has fought so fiercely for his PdL candidates.

In Milan, his home town, he has warned Italy's financial capital risks being overrun by Islamic fundamentalists, gypsies and leftist squatters if leftwing candidate Giuliano Pisapia defeats the PdL mayoral incumbent who lagged him by six points in the first round, Letizia Moratti.

In Naples, the centre-left vote was split first time round but in Sunday and Monday's run-off the main opposition force, the Democratic Party, have swung their support behind an anti-Berlusconi former prosecutor, Luigi De Magistris.

Invective turned into real heat in the southern Italian city Friday when the voting HQ of PdL candidate Gianni Lettieri was torched.

Lettieri blamed it on leftwing "extremists" allegedly whipped into action by De Magstris while the ex-prosecutor countered by saying the PdL man had staged the incident to discredit his rival.

Meanwhile, at a Group of Eight summit in France, Berlusconi had another go at the prosecutors he repeatedly claims are persecuting him and trying to dictate the political agenda.

The left-leaning media said the premier looked "forlorn" when he tried to get US President Barack Obama's sympathy on the matter, but the PdL praised Berlusconi for "telling it like it is".

Although many commentators would differ, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said "the results in Milan and Naples won't affect the government, one way or another".

According to most forecasts, the PdL's key ally the Northern League, which has been making noises about moving ministries to Milan and growling that it "won't be dragged down" by the PdL, will start making greater claims on government policy-making if Milan and Naples fall to the Left.

Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (Italy)