Centre-left favoured to take Rome in Italian municipal run-offs

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ROME (Reuters) - Italians begin voting on Sunday in a two-day run-off for the local governments of 65 large cities and smaller towns, including the capital Rome.

Two weeks ago, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) won mayoral elections in numerous big cities and Rome's incumbent mayor, Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star Movement, failed even to make it to a run-off.

The PD won outright in the financial capital Milan as well as Bologna and Naples, getting more than 50% of the votes and thus avoiding the need for a run-off.

But there will be second rounds in the northern cities of Turin and Trieste, as well as Rome. Polls will close on Monday afternoon.

In Rome, former economy minister Roberto Gualtieri is expected to pick up most of the votes that went in the first round to Raggi and to Carlo Calenda, an independent centrist.

Gualtieri came second in the first round with 27%, behind the right-wing candidate Enrico Michetti, a lawyer and radio host, on 30%.

Gualtieri has received the backing of Calenda and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, from the 5-Star Movement. Raggi has decided not to endorse either of the remaining candidates.

The elections will have no direct repercussions on Prime Minister Mario Draghi's national unity government, but they are the first since he was sworn in in February.

The results so far have been a setback for two allied right-wing parties, Matteo Salvini's League and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, although they are likely to do well in many of the smaller towns still to be decided.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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