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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italian Politicians Blasted for Using Pope for Votes

ROME -- Subdued by Pope John Paul II's death, Italians voted Monday for a second day in regional elections -- seen as a test for Premier Silvio Berlusconi's ruling coalition -- amid accusations that the competing sides were exploiting the pontiff's image to win votes.

Final results were expected later in the day or early Tuesday. Voter turnout at the end of a full day of balloting Sunday was reported at 55.2 percent. Campaigning was toned down last week after the pope's health dramatically worsened, and politicians canceled rallies to join the mourning after his death.

But on Sunday morning, local politicians from opposing camps put up mourning posters for the pope in the streets of Rome and other main cities, printing their party's symbol next to the image or the words of John Paul.

Faced with a barrage of complaints, the Interior Ministry ordered the posters removed or the political symbols covered up. Italian law prohibits campaigning once polls are open.

More than 41 million people were eligible to vote in the election for governors and councils in 13 of Italy's 20 regions. The balloting is considered an important indicator of the center-right government's strength before next year's general elections.

Going into the election, Berlusconi's coalition controlled eight of the regions where voting is being held. The center-left opposition held power in the remaining five regions.

On Sunday morning, leaders from both sides, including Berlusconi, joined prelates in prayer in front of the pope's body lying in state at the Vatican.