Veltroni hopes for higher turnout as first day polls close
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Italian polls closed after the first day of voting in an election that could see former PM Silvio Berlusconi return to power. Turnout was lower than in 2006, which could hurt centre-left challenger Walter Veltroni. Alexis Masciarelli reports.
The centre-left coalition government led by Romano Prodi lasted just 20 months before it collapsed in January with
“I don’t care who wins. I just want a government that lasts,” said 54-year-old teacher Francesco Antonazzi, voting in
Voter turnout was lower than during the last parliamentary election in 2006. Some 48.69 percent of voters had cast their ballots by 7 p.m., down from 52.16 percent by the same time two years ago, the government said.
Berlusconi, the only man in 50 years to have served a full five-year term as prime minister, was applauded as he swept past voters in
Veltroni, 52, low-key leader of the Democratic Party, waited in a long queue in
Berlusconi, one of
The usually smooth-talking leader also made several apparent slips that could cost him votes, such as insulting soccer star Francesco Totti for backing the centre left.
The International Monetary Fund sees the European Union’s fourth largest economy growing at just 0.3 percent this year and it has the world’s third highest debt pile in absolute terms.
Berlusconi and Veltroni both promised modest tax cuts to spur consumption. But the winner’s ability to deliver this will be hampered by complex voting rules, introduced by Berlusconi, that make it hard to win a clear majority in the upper house.
Ruggero Bianchi, 63, voted for Veltroni, who has the backing of
A third of voters were expected to decide at the last minute who to back. Many saw little difference between the platforms.
“I planned to vote for Berlusconi this time. But when I got inside the ballot box, I just couldn’t do it,” said 36-year-old Massimo Pavese in
He voted for Veltroni, but said: “He’s got no chance of winning. His platform is practically the same as Berlusconi’s and people are too disappointed with the Prodi government.”
A close race could force the winner into a coalition with smaller parties. Veltroni and Berlusconi, the only ones with a real chance of being premier, deny they might form a coalition.
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