(MENAFN- Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) ROME, June 5 (KUNA) -- Around 13 million Italians headed to the polls on Sunday to vote in the municipal elections seen as a crucial test for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's rule.
The first round of voting kicked off early on Sunday in more than 1,342 municipalities in seven regional capitals, including Rome, Milan, the southern cities of Naples and Bologna, in addition to the cities of Turin and Trieste, as well as 18 provincial capitals.
The polls are the biggest and most significant since Renzi's Democratic Party, embroiled in an internal rift, ascended to power.
Moreover, the test of Renzi's rule is focused on the capital Rome, in the wake of an expenses scandal that forced former mayor Ignazio Marino to resign last fall, which resulted in deepening rifts within the ruling Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, 13 candidates are contesting elections in Rome with five seen as the frontrunners, including the Democratic Party's candidate Roberto Giachetti and mayoral candidate of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement (M5S) Virginia Raggi, whose message seems to resonate with the youth.
Former Minister of Youth in former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government, Giorgia Meloni is seen as the favorite after leaving Berlusconi's party. Meloni faces affluent businessman Alfio Marchini and former Minister of Economy Stefano Fassina, who is seen as a long shot, as candidates with the most votes are set to face off in the second round of voting on June 19th.
In the financial capital Milan, the main contest pits Giuseppe Sala, the center-left candidate against center-right candidate and former Milan city Manager Stefano Parisi and M5S candidate Gianluca Corrado.
In the southern city of Naples, the main contest is between incumbent mayor and prosecutor Luigi de Magistris and the Democratic Party's candidate Valeria Valente, in addition to Center-right candidate Gianni Lettieri and the M5S candidate Matteo Brambilla.
Ballots are expected to be counted immediately once they close, with results set to be announced on Monday. (end) mn.nam