31 May 2011

Berlusconi suffers heavy local poll defeats

2:41 pm on 31 May 2011

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has suffered big losses in his northern stronghold of Milan in local elections that threaten to unbalance his centre-right coalition government.

Mr Berlusconi's party has lost control of Milan, the base of his vast business and media empire, as well as Naples and other towns and cities.

The 74-year-old is involved in three corruption trials and a scandal over underage prostitution.

Centre-left candidate Giuliano Pisapia won in Milan with about 55% of the vote over Mayor Letizia Moratti.

The southern port of Naples, Italy's third largest city, went to the opposition Italy of Values party by a landslide while the centre-left easily held on to power in Turin and Bologna.

The results raised the prospect of national elections before the scheduled 2013 date and threatened to expose divisions in the ruling alliance between Mr Berlusconi's PDL party and the pro-devolution, anti-immigrant Northern League.

The League, whose support is vital to Berlusconi's thin majority in parliament, also suffered heavily.