Italy's centre-left snatches victory from centre-right in local elections

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FILE PHOTO: Italy to elect new president in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's centre left won the majority of a set of local election run-offs, results showed on Monday, undermining the centre-right in several cities where the bloc has historically been a favourite.

The vote held on Sunday is the last electoral test for the country's broad spectrum of political groups before next year's parliamentary election, when the predominant party will decide who should replace Mario Draghi as prime minister.

"This result strengthens us in view of the future, in building a centre-left bloc that will be a winner also on a national level, at next year's political elections," the leader of Italy's Democratic Party Enrico Letta said on Sunday, expressing great satisfaction for the "extraordinary result."

Citizens across Italy voted in the ballot for 65 cities, including 13 provincial and regional capitals, although only 42% of the over 2 million who had the right to vote cast their ballot on a torrid last Sunday of June.

The Democratic Party won the bulk of the provincial and regional capitals where no mayor candidates got 50% of the votes two weeks ago, including the northern cities of Parma, Alessandria, Monza - where former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lives - and the southern city of Catanzaro.

In Verona, traditionally a bastion of the centre-right, former soccer player Damiano Tommasi, backed by the Democratic party and the 5-Star Movement, snatched the victory after 15 years of centre-right rule.

The soccer star benefited from the decision of the centre-right bloc, made up of Matteo Salvini's League, the Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia, led by Berlusconi, not to rally behind the same candidate against Tommasi.

Although parties tend to run in multi-pronged alliances at local elections in Italy, voters signal individual preferences, revealing the relative strength of the various groups involved.

The centre-right had won 10 of the 26 provincial and regional capitals up for grabs in the first round of the elections on June 12.

The League was the clear leader of the bloc until last year when a series of missteps by Salvini saw its support erode sharply.

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Toby Chopra)