Several candidates opposed to austerity measures were making a strong showing Monday in partial results from Italy’s local elections — the first nationwide test for Premier Mario Monti since he was named to save Italy from its debt crisis.

Analysts were watching for signs of voter anger in two days of balloting over Monti’s austerity measures and toward mainstream parties that have supported them since Monti took over from Silvio Berlusconi in November.

The candidate for mayor in Parma, who galvanized discontent with mainstream politics, appeared to gain enough votes to force a runoff, projections based on partial results showed. In Genoa, a left-wing candidate who in the primaries defeated the candidates of mainstream center-left parties, appeared on the way to being the largest vote-getter, although it was still unclear if a runoff would be avoided.

And the popular mayor of Verona, whose Northern League party has strongly opposed a new housing tax, appeared headed to a first round victory.

Italy’s more established parties were faring less well.

“We made a mistake with our candidates, I don’t have a problem admitting it,” said Ignazio La Russa, former defense minister in the Berlusconi government.

But despite the disappointing results, leaders of Berlusconi’s conservative Freedom People party vowed to keep backing Monti.

“We support the Monti government,” said Angelino Alfano, who was tapped by Berlusconi as party chief. “We didn’t decide on the basis of this result to pull our support because we are a responsible party,” Alfano told a news conference in Rome.

Even before any runoffs, Monday’s results, with mainstream parties generally taking a drubbing, amount to “practically a tsunami. It’s anti-politics,” said Italo Bocchino, a leader of a small center-right party which broke with Berlusconi’s coalition during the media mogul’s last government.

The government said turnout after polls closed was 67.5 percent, 6.5 percent lower than in the last such elections.

Some 9.5 million Italians were eligible to vote for 942 city councils and mayorships.

Appearing headed to garner most of the vote in Palermo — but possibly not the more than 50-percent share to avoid a runoff — was Leoluca Orlando, a former mayor of that Sicilian city running again for that post. His Italy of Values Party has refused to join the majority of forces in Parliament supporting Monti and has denounced the premier for demanding what it says are too many sacrifices from the working class and not enough from the rich.

“The old politics is dead” in Palermo, Orlando said in an interview on Sky TG24 TV, referring to the two big blocs of the center-right and center-left parties that have governed Italy for some two decades.

Source : Candidates against austerity lead in Italian vote – BusinessWeek