World Bulletin / News Desk
Voters in Venice and dozens of other Italian towns went to the polls to elect new mayors on Sunday, wrapping up a broader round of local elections which saw gains for anti-establishment and right-wing parties last month.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) won five out of the seven regions that voted last month but a strong showing from the anti-immigration Northern League in many regions was widely seen as a blow to his government.
Sunday's runoff ballot will settle races left undecided in the first round on May 31. The election has been overshadowed by a refugee crisis made increasingly tangible to voters by the hundreds of African and Syrian migrants camping out in train stations in Rome and Milan.
The result will have no direct impact on national politics but with political headwinds growing and a packed reform agenda in front of him, Renzi will be keen to avoid further setbacks which could undermine his authority.
The vote in Venice is being particularly closely watched, with PD candidate Felice Casson, a former magistrate, facing Luigi Brugnaro, a local businessman leading a centre-right alliance supported by the Northern League.
Other important races include Mantua and Lecco in Lombardy and Arezzo in Tuscany. Several areas in Sicily are also voting.
The Northern League Governor of Veneto, the region around Venice, has been among the leading voices calling for a halt to migrant arrivals.
The PD's Casson has also called for a stop to transfers of migrants from overcrowded migrant reception centres in southern Italy, saying that centres in Venice were already full.
Television pictures of migrants sleeping in railway stations or housed in temporary accommodation have dominated news bulletins in the run-up to the elections.
Polls close at 2100 GMT with full results not expected until Monday.Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Haziran 2015, 14:58