All eyes on Milan as Italy votes

Milan has been under the control of the right for 20 years.

Rome: Italians voted Sunday in the second round of local elections, with all eyes on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi`s hometown of Milan, which the centre-left threatens to take along with Naples.

The polls opened at 0600 GMT, with voters able to cast their ballots until 2000 GMT and again from 0500-1300 GMT on Monday.

In the first round held earlier this month Milan`s centre-right candidate, incumbent mayor Letizia Moratti, was unexpectedly left trailing with 41.6 percent of the vote behind the centre-left`s Giuliano Pisapia, who won 48 percent.

Italy`s economic capital and Berlusconi`s base, Milan has been under the control of the right for 20 years. The vote there is being seen as a bellwether for the fate of the prime minister`s government and even of his political future.

The other big test is playing out in Naples, where the right led by entrepreneur Gianni Lettieri stands a good chance of winning the second ballot.

But even though the centre-left candidate, ex-magistrate Luigi de Magistris is several points behind, he could still benefit from votes transferred from the other candidate in the first round.

Shortly before the poll Berlusconi tried to play down the effect on the national government of a double loss in Milan and Naples.

"The results will not affect the government," he told the Il Giornale on Sunday.

Bureau Report

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