ROME - Italians went to the polls on Sunday in local elections that will provide the first test of voter resistance to Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's increasingly unpopular austerity policies since his appointment last year.

Monti himself is not in the race, but for the two main parties which support his technocrat government in parliament, the vote will be a barometer of support ahead of national elections next year.

Both the center-right PDL and the center-left PD are jockeying for position ahead of the 2013 vote but face an increasingly skeptical electorate which has been bitterly resentful of tax hikes imposed by the Monti government.

With national elections in France and Greece and an important state election in Germany on the same day, the vote will help provide one of the most comprehensive snapshots of popular mood across Europe since the outbreak of the financial crisis.

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