ROME – First exit polls indicate candidates from a populist movement did poorly in the main Italian mayoral races, with the leading candidates coming from both the traditional center-right and center-left camps.
Right after voting ended late Sunday night, pollsters for both state TV and private TV said their samplings indicated the anti-euro 5-Star Movement would fail even to make runoffs in the four top races, including a big setback in Genoa, which is home to Movement founder, comic Beppe Grillo.
The local races "put the brakes on the Movement's" rise, headlined La Stampa, the daily in Turin, a major city where only a year earlier the triumph of the populists' candidate there for mayor fueled 5-Stars' national ambitions.
Substantial actual results were not expected until sometime Monday morning.
But if exit samplings prove accurate, voters delivered stinging defeats to the populists, keen on gaining the premiership for the first time via national elections due in 2018.
The anti-euro party ran candidates in some 225 of 1,000 races.
In Genoa, as well as in the other main city up for grabs, Palermo, Sicily, the top two vote-getters, according to the exit polls, were shaping up to be candidates from center right and center left.
Runoffs will be held on June 25 in races where no one clinches more than 50 percent of the ballots.
Until Grillo's Movement started gaining ground in the last few years, Italy's political scene had been dominated for a quarter-century by center-right coalitions, led by media mogul and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, and center-left alliances, currently led by ex-premier and Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi.
Only a year ago, the 5-Stars dealt the Democrats embarrassing losses in Rome and Turin mayoral races.
But a generally lackluster performance by 5-Star Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, leading an administration dogged by scandals, has had many analysts wondering if the shine was fading for the Movement.
Turin's 5-Star Mayor Chiara Appendino initially received high marks, but lately has faced criticism, especially about security when panicked soccer fans watching a match in a Turin square recently set off an injury-causing stampede.
Renzi resigned the premiership in December after miscalculating that Italians would back his government's constitutional reforms in a referendum.
Exit polls indicated the 5-Stars' hopes to make inroads in the south also would be dashed.
Leoluca Orlando, a center-left figure who made his name as an anti-Mafia maverick in the 1980s, appeared to be leading in his bid for a fifth mandate as mayor of Palermo, Sicily, exit polls indicated.
At least one town needing a mayor won't get one.
No one offered to be a candidate in San Luca, a remote town in the Calabrian mountains and dubbed the "mamma of the 'ndrangheta" crime syndicate for its notoriety as a stronghold of mobsters, Sky TG24 TV reported. Officials appointed by the Interior Ministry will continue to run the town of 3,900 residents until elections can eventually be held.
Frances D'Emilio is on twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio