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Italians vote in runoffs of local elections

Italians vote in runoffs of local elections

Premier Romano Prodi's forces fended off another major challenge from the center-right opposition at the polls Monday, as both coalitions largely retained key seats in a runoff vote of local elections, returns indicated.
The center-left lost the mayorship of the southern city of Matera to the center-right candidate supported by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi. But Prodi's candidate held onto the provincial presidency of Genoa, which had been seen as the key race in balloting Sunday and Monday.
Nearly 3 million people were eligible to vote in races in which no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round May 27-28. In addition to the Genoa seat, Italians chose mayors in 69 towns and small cities.
Berlusconi said: "the time of the left is over."
In the first round of voting May 27-28, Berlusconi's forces made some gains, especially in the affluent north, but returns suggested no landslide for the conservatives in what was seen as a test for Prodi's year-old government.
Berlusconi's forces fared similarly in the runoff balloting: they captured Latina, Matera, Parma and Lucca, while the center-left took Pistoia, Piacenza as well as Taranto, where there was no center-right candidate.
Turnout for the Genoa race was 48 percent, while turnout for the mayoral races was 63 percent, the Interior Ministry reported.