Italians have headed to the polls in local elections that could see big gains for the far-Right.
In the first key test of public support for the fragile national coalition since the coronavirus outbreak, 46 million voters will vote for local officials and on a proposed constitutional change to cut the number of MPs.
Voters have largely approved of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's handling of the pandemic, but recent opinion polls suggest this will not help his coalition allies in the vote for the heads of seven regions and mayors in almost 1,000 towns.
The Right-wing opposition, led by Matteo Salvini's League, is expected to win at least four of the regions up for grabs, and could capture the traditional Left-wing stronghold of Tuscany.
A drubbing for the ruling parties would galvanise the League and its allies, but most analysts say it would be unlikely to trigger a government collapse in the midst of the coronavirus crisis and as the country prepares a crucial 2021 budget.
The constitutional referendum on whether to reduce the number of members of parliament from 945 to 600 is likely to be approved, according to early polls.
The referendum will close an important parenthesis left open when a vote earlier this year in March was delayed by the coronavirus lockdown in Italy.
A completed referendum clears the administrative path for Italy’s president to dissolve parliament or hold new elections in the future, if necessary. The measure’s passage would be considered a win for its backer, the Five Star Movement, which is otherwise expected to perform dismally in regional contests.
The big question is how many regions will the League and its coalition of parties on the right gain from the centre-left.
“Another stronghold of the left is under attack from the League – for Salvini, Tuscany is the race to win,” said La Stampa’s Niccolò Carratelli.
“Nobody has a strong incentive to make the government fall right now,” Erik Jones of Johns Hopkins University in Bologna told the Daily Telegraph. “But the regional contests could have important implications within the political parties.”