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Berlusconi suffers political blow in native Milan

Berlusconi suffers political blow in native Milan

Premier Silvio Berlusconi suffered a serious political blow in his native Milan when his candidate failed to win outright a mayoral race that the Italian leader had called a referendum on his government.
Though down by a surprising 6.4 percentage points, according to final results Tuesday, incumbent Mayor Letizia Moratti still has a chance to retain her seat.
She faces a runoff in two weeks against the center-left challenger, a criminal lawyer, that will test Berlusconi's ability to galvanize support in Milan _ scene of many personal triumphs but also damaging criminal trials, including one for under-age prostitution.
"In Milan, it looks like there is some rejection of Berlusconi. This is not a knockout blow for Berlusconi, but it is a blow," said political analyst James Waltson of Rome's American University.
It wasn't just Milan. The results were mostly grim for Berlusconi and his coalition partner the Northern League in mayoral and provincial races that tested the sentiment of over 13 million voters, nearly a quarter of the population.
Neither Berlusconi nor the Northern League leader Umberto Bossi has yet commented on the outcome.
Berlusconi's candidates face mayoral runoffs May 29 most critically in Milan and Naples, but also in Trieste and Cagliari. The center-left won outright in strongholds Turin and Bologna.
The news for Berlusconi was better in Naples, however, where his candidate led the voting though failed to win a majority in a bid to take back the seat held by the center-left. Berlusconi has been actively intervening in the ongoing garbage crisis in Naples, recently sending in the army to clean up streets.
Berlusconi's coalition partner the Northern League _ which has recently challenged Berlusconi on his decision to join NATO strikes against Libya _ lost support in 14 of 15 major contests.
The Milan vote, however, was widely considered the most indicative because Berlusconi had taken such a personal stake and because he is so closely identified with the city where he founded his Mediaset media empire and owns one of the soccer clubs, AC Milan.
Corriere della Sera called it "a personal and political blow" but noted the situation "in reality, remains open."
Commentators suggested that the virulent nature of the Milan campaign, which included Berlusconi's tirades against prosecutors that have charged him in more than a dozen criminal cases, four currently active, boomeranged against him.
Berlusconi has been making regular court appearances to defend himself. A second hearing is scheduled May 31 _ just two days after the runoffs _ in his sensational trial on charges of paying a Moroccan teen for sex and then using his influence to cover it up. Berlusconi has not indicated if he will attend.


Updated : 2021-03-09 00:52 GMT+08:00