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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Temperatures rise in chaotic poll
Voting station damaged by angry voters in Naples
Enraged voters overturned tables in frustration
Angry Italian voters tore up their ballots and overturned tables at polling stations enraged by election-day chaos which saw some people forced to wait until the early hours before casting their votes.

In Rome, police reinforcements had to be sent in to keep increasingly unruly crowds at polling stations in check.


I'm tearing up my ballot because of the terrible organisation

Franco De Pascale

Police in Naples reported three assaults at polling stations, while voters in Naples threw ballot boxes on the floor in frustration, reported the Ansa news agency.

Some people tried to rush the gates at one station after waiting until nearly midnight. Others simply gave up and went home after hours of waiting in line.

"Here is my ID card; I'm tearing up my ballot because of the terrible organisation," said Franco De Pascale, who finally gave up trying to vote in Naples after two hours.

Controversial closures

Five people, most of them elderly, fainted in the heat of the crowds at a Milan polling station, while an 88-year-old man with a history of heart trouble collapsed and died while he waited in Grosseto, Ansa reported.

Voting station damaged by angry voters in Naples
Police were sent in to restore order
Officials gave a range of reasons for the delays, including a huge reduction in the number of voting stations which were cut by 30,000 in a controversial cost-cutting measure.

Politicians also blamed a high turnout, a long and complicated voting form, and the additional mayoral contests taking place in many cities.

"It could be due to the heated climate," said Rosa Russo Jervolino, the centre-left mayoral candidate in Naples, which saw some of the most chaotic scenes.

Polling in Naples finally ended at 0130, but in Reggio Calabria, stations remained open after 0400 - more than six hours after they were scheduled to have closed.

Restrictions lifted

Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, who himself waited for two hours, called for new booths to be brought out to try to ease the congestion.

Queues outside Naples voting station
Polling had to be extended into the early hours in some areas
Officials in Naples eased restrictions and allowed voters to fill out their ballots while they waited.

But not everyone had to wait.

"I'm 105 years old ... let me vote!" cried Maria Mara, before being allowed to the front of the line to the accompaniment of a round of applause from voters in the eastern province of Frosinone.

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See also:

10 May 01 | Europe
Italy gears up for close election
11 May 01 | Media reports
'Life is not beautiful' if Berlusconi wins
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