Regional voting starts in Italy in test for PM Meloni

AFP , Sunday 12 Feb 2023

Polling stations opened on Sunday for regional elections in Italy's two most populous regions -- polls seen as a test of the popularity of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's three-month-old government.

PM Meloni
Italy s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni gestures as she speaks during a press conference after an extraordinary meeting of a EU Summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on February 10, 2023. AFP


Home to a combined 13 million residents, the northern economic powerhouse of Lombardy and Lazio, which includes the capital Rome, will elect a new regional president and assembly members.

Candidates backed by Meloni's hard-right coalition are expected to triumph in both regions.

Her far-right Brothers of Italy party made history by securing 26 percent in September's legislative elections.

And in October she became Italy's first female prime minister, at the helm of the most right-wing government in Rome since World War II.

The vote will also be closely watched for signs of tensions between Meloni and her coalition partners -- Matteo Salvini's far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia.

In Lombardy, regional president Attilio Fontana, a member of Salvini's League and the candidate of Meloni's coalition, is expected to be re-elected for another five-year term.

Further south in Lazio, right-wing candidate Francesco Rocca is expected to win in the face of a divided opposition, replacing the Democratic Party's Nicola Zingaretti, who resigned after being elected to the national parliament last year.

Polling stations were to stay open until 11 pm local time (2200 GMT) and reopen again on Monday.

Results were expected later on Monday.

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