Italy’s Local Election Will Show If Berlusconi Is a Player Again

Italians vote in the final round of municipal elections Sunday with former premier Silvio Berlusconi looking to show that he’s still a political force.

Over 4 million eligible voters will be asked to pick mayors in 111 towns and cities including Berlusconi’s heartlands in the north and the strongholds of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s Democratic Party in Tuscany and Umbria.

The first round ballots earlier this month demonstrated a resurgence in support for 80-year-old Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and its center-right allies, including the anti-immigrant Northern League. Their candidates reached the second round in most of the contests and they are seeking to chalk up wins in regions where the Democratic Party has traditionally been dominant.

“A victory for Berlusconi’s candidates in some or most of the main cities could certainly have a short-term impact,” Roberto D’Alimonte, political science professor at Rome’s Luiss University, said in a phone interview. “It remains to be seen what use Berlusconi and his allies will make of that at a national level.”

The Berlusconi bloc is running at about 30 percent in nationwide polls, neck-and-neck with the anti-euro Five Star and Gentiloni’s PD, which is led by his predecessor as prime minister, Matteo Renzi.

Italy is due to hold a general election in the first half of next year, though the rules that will govern the vote are unclear.

A multi-party deal to make the electoral system for the parliament in Rome more stable unraveled earlier this month. The existing system is purely proportional and the main parties want to change it in order to produce less fragmented legislatures.

“The more likely scenario is that the existing system will be retained,” Federico Santi, a political analyst at Eurasia Group in London, said in a note on Friday. “This bodes poorly for political stability and reform.”