Populists' surge in Italy stops in voting for Italy's mayors

Populists' surge in Italy stops in voting for Italy's mayors

Populists' surge in Italy stops in voting for Italy's mayors

Five Star has called for a referendum on Italy's membership in the euro.

ROME, June 12 (Reuters) - Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement suffered a resounding defeat in local elections, results released on Monday showed, losing ground to traditional parties less than a year before a national vote is due.

The local races "put the brakes on the Movement's" rise, headlined La Stampa, the daily in Turin, a major city where only a year earlier the triumph of the populists' candidate there for mayor fueled 5-Stars' national ambitions.

5-Star had been hoping to build on its success previous year, when it took charge of Rome after winning a landslide.

Initial counts showed its candidates coming third or fourth in many cities including the home of the movement's founder, Genoa.

A closer contest is expected in the northern port city of Genoa, where the center-right hopes to win control from the incumbent center-left.

5-Star is running neck-and-neck with the PD nationally, according to opinion polls, but it often struggles in local elections due to its loose organisation and lack of high-profile candidates, and it is expected to score few successes on Sunday.

In all but one of the top cities up for grabs, candidates from center-right and center-left alliances earned berths in June 25 runoffs, since none clinched more than 50 percent of the votes.

"In parliament and at the municipal level, Five Star has demonstrated that they are stronger when it comes to winning votes than governing", said Ettore Rosato of the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far-right Northern League - long-time allies but with increasingly diverging political agendas - trail with less than 15 percent each.

"Compared with local ballots held past year, which delivered very strong results for the movement as it managed to secure critical cities such as Rome and Turin, municipalities contested this time were smaller and less systematic at national level", the analysts said.

Leoluca Orlando, a center-left figure who made his name as an anti-Mafia maverick in the 1980s, is running for a fifth mandate as mayor of Palermo, Sicily, a stiff challenge for the 5-Stars.

Until last week, Italy's main parties had been trying to pass a new proportional electoral law together, but the deal unraveled.

Hence, the most likely scenario continued to be that general elections would wait until the end of the first quarter of 2018 at the earliest.

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