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Centre-left loses key mayoral race in Venice stronghold

15 giugno 2015 | 17.44
LETTURA: 2 minuti

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Italian premier Matteo Renzi's ruling centre-left Democratic Party has suffered another bruising electoral defeat, losing the Venice mayoral race to conservative-backed businessman after two decades in power, results showed on Monday.

Luigi Brugnaro, a non-party affiliated businessman supported by conservative former premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, won 53.2 percent of the vote in Sunday's run-off, beating former magistrate and senator Felice Casson, who got 46.8 percent.

Venice was the most important out of 65 mayoral run-off votes held on Sunday, two weeks after a first round of local polls in which the Democratic Party did less well than expected and lost control of its northwestern regional stronghold of Liguria.

The PD and its allies won in four out of ten provincial capitals, fewer than the centre-right forces led by Forza Italia and the far-right Northern League party, who captured five, while independents won two.

"The defeat in Venice and in other important cities such as Arezzo, Fermo, Matera and Nuoro hurts," said Democratic Party deputy leader Lorenzo Guerini, claiming the party was still the most widely supported.

In the first round of the Venice vote, Casson was ahead with 38 percent of votes cast, compared with Brugnaro at 28.5 percent.

Analysts attributed the run-off result to a low turnout and voters from the rightwing anti-immigrant Northern League party switching to Brugnaro in droves after its own candidate lost in the first round.

Elections were held in Venice after the incumbent mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, from the Democratic Party resigned last year, accused of illegal campaign financing amid a wider corruption probe over a major project to build a series of dams to protect the lagoon city from flooding.

Prosecutors allege a total of 25 million euros of public funds were funnelled into political campaigns and away from MOSE, a 5.5-billion-euro system of retractable dikes due to become operational in 2016 after decades of delays.

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