Italian local vote provides test for Monti austerity

ROME - Italian voters will deliver their first verdict on Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Monday in local elections that are expected to underscore a growing resistance to austerity policies across Europe.
Monti spoke to incoming French President Francois Hollande and other European leaders on Sunday night to urge a greater focus on growth after the election in France and a severe drubbing for established parties in Greece.
Following the French and Greek results and a state election in Germany which saw a sharp fall in support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, the Italian vote will contribute to one of the most comprehensive snapshots of popular mood across Europe since the outbreak of the crisis.
Painful tax hikes, pension cuts and unpopular labor reforms have fueled mounting opposition to Monti since he came to power last year with a mandate to save Italy from a Greek-style debt emergency, and he has placed increasing emphasis on reforms to promote growth in his recent public comments.