Last Update: 08:07
ItalyÎ„s 5-Star movement has failed to make the second round in local elections in a number of key cities. The votes are seen as a test ahead of national elections to be held within months.
ItalyÎ„s eurosceptic 5-Star Movement was dealt a blow in local municipal elections on Sunday, failing to make the run-off vote in Parma, Verona, Palermo, LÎ„Aquila, Catanzaro, Lecce and Genoa, according to exit polls run by state broadcaster RAI. Its only hope of making the second-round vote on June 25 was in the southern Italian city of Taranto, early results indicated.
"This is a huge defeat for 5-Star," said Matteo Ricci, head of local affairs for the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD). "Not only are they not making the run-offs, but they are polling disastrous numbers."
"Today shows that a year after its victory in Rome, the verdict on its ability to govern at a local level is negative," Ricci said. SundayÎ„s election called on some nine million voters in more than 1,000 towns and cities across Italy, making them a useful gauge months before a parliamentary ballot.
Center-right, center-left or independent mayoral hopefuls looked set to contest the run-off elections.
5-Star and the ruling center-left Democratic Party, led by former premier Matteo Renzi, are running neck-and-neck in national polls with around 30 percent support.
Silvio BerlusconiÎ„s center right party and Matteo SalviniÎ„s right-wing Northern League have about 13 percent support. But SundayÎ„s results may indicate 5-StarÎ„s shine is fading, dashing their hopes to take over the premiership.
After rising in popularity, 5-Star has been beset by local infighting and a series of scandals in Rome and Turin after their candidates won mayoral seats last year.
5-Star may be following the path of other anti-establishment parties across Europe, with the Front National in France, the anti-EU group UKIP in Britain and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) all stumbling in polls.
cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)