The Italian Communist Party has failed in its bid to become the country’s No. 1 political power, according to early returns Monday from local and regional elections.
The vote in the two-day elections appeared to be an endorsement of Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi’s center-left coalition and the economic reforms it has tried to enact over Communist opposition.
Computer projections gave first place to the centrist Christian Democrats, the dominant force in Italian politics since World War II and the major party in the governing coalition.
Officials said final returns from the 15 regions, 86 provinces and 6,562 cities will not be available until early Wednesday.
The neo-fascist Italian Social Movement also appeared to be making modest gains in regional voting, scoring a surprise victory in the predominantly German-speaking south Tyrolean city of Bolzano.
The movement’s victory was attributed to growing resentment among Italian-speaking residents to political powers granted to German-speakers under an agreement between the Italian and Austrian governments. The region was a part of Austria that was ceded to Italy after World War I.
The Bolzano City Council returns were complete because voting was conducted only on Sunday and did not extend into Monday morning like the rest of the country.
Based on partial returns of voting for regional councils in 499 out of 500 precincts, pollsters projected 34.8% for the Christian Democrats and 30.1% for the Communists.
The Communist Party’s own projection claimed 29.5% to 34.7% for the Christian Democrats.
Craxi’s Socialists and the other coalition partners, the Social Democrats, Republicans and Liberals, also either gained or held their own.
The Italian Communist Party’s share of the vote was down from 31.5% in the last regional elections in 1980, 31.2% in the 1983 parliamentary elections and 34.5% in the European Parliament elections a year ago, when the party emerged as No. 1 nationwide for the first time.
The Christian Democrat vote was down from 36.8% in 1980 but up from 32.6% in 1982 and 33% in 1984.