Reuters International

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures during a news conference in Rome, Italy, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli


ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday his Democratic Party had suffered setbacks in weekend local elections, but predicted it would have no bearing on a key referendum in October.

Renzi, who has said he will resign if he loses the referendum on constitutional reform, told reporters the municipal ballot was fragmented, with support for leftist, rightist and anti-establishment parties highly fractured.

"I do not believe there is a correlation between the local election and the referendum," Renzi said. "I am not worried."

Italy went to the polls on Sunday to elect mayors in around 1,300 municipalities, with attention fixed on five major cities, which will all have to go to a second-round run-off on June 19 after no single candidate managed to win 50 percent of the vote.

In the capital Rome, the candidate for the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement took a substantial lead against Renzi's PD party, while in the southern city Naples, the PD failed to make the cut. However, the centre-left party came out on top in the other three cities -- Milan, Turin and Bologna.

"We are not happy," Renzi said. "We had wanted to do better, especially in Naples."

However, he dismissed suggestions Sunday's vote was a triumph for the 5-Star Movement, which has looked to capitalise on voter anger against widespread corruption, saying it had only flourished in Rome and Turin.

He also said the populist, right-wing Northern League party had failed to make major advances.

"If this (election) had been a protest vote then we would have seen the 5-Star and Northern League doing strongly everywhere. But that didn't happen," he said, arguing that local factors had weighed heavily across the country.

(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Steve Scherer)


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