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5 things we learned from local elections in Italy – POLITICO

ROME — Italy’s political landscape changed on Sunday, with voters in local elections uplifting the far-right Brothers of Italy party and punishing the 5 Star Movement, a former anti-establishment force that has tried to reestablish itself as a party center-left.

The results give an idea of ​​how Italy’s political climate is changing as the country’s next big vote approaches – parliamentary elections are due next spring and will likely determine the country’s next prime minister.

Yet the trend lines were multifaceted. While the Brotherhood of Italy, the country’s main opposition party, has benefited, the centre-left Democratic Party, which is closely aligned with Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s unity government, has benefited.

Meanwhile, the 5Stars, a populist force also within Draghi’s coalition, have lost some of their reputation after making numerous compromises in government. The same thing happened for La Ligue, a far-right party in Draghi’s coalition which also made concessions on some of its positions.

More broadly, right-wing parties are expected to retain control of several major regional capitals, including Genoa and Abruzzo, and topple Palermo, according to Monday’s projections. In races where no candidate has won, including Verona and Catanzaro, there will be a second round in two weeks.

In total, Sunday’s elections covered around 1,000 mayoral races, including those in 26 provincial and regional capitals.

Here are five things we learned.

1. The Brothers of Italy are on the rise

Sunday proved that the Brethren in Italy could turn their rise in the polls into tangible results.

Since choosing to stay in opposition rather than join Draghi’s government, Italy’s Brothers have risen dramatically in national polls and overtaken far-right rival the League.

On Sunday, these projections were maintained throughout Italy, even in the north, a long-standing stronghold of the League. In Padua, the electoral list of the Brothers won 8% of the vote, against 7% for the League, according to the latest projections. In Parma, he scored 8% against 4% for the League. And in Verona, one of the League’s traditional power bases, he won 12% against 6% for his rival.

The Brothers also led the League in Palermo, 9% to 5%, according to Monday’s projections. “In many municipalities, we are the driving force of the centre-right. The vote debunked the narrative that Fratelli di Italia has no ruling class,” Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni said outside party headquarters in Rome.

2. The right did well when it united

In some cities, right-wing parties have formed coalitions — and taken advantage of them. These coalitions saw their candidates win in Genoa and L’Aquila and overthrew Palermo.

Conversely, in cities where the right-wing parties have not regrouped, such as Verona and Catanzaro, the elections will go to the second round.

League leader Matteo Salvini called for unity from the right to move forward.

“In the next election, the center right will only win if it is united,” he told a press conference on Monday.

3. Working with Draghi helped – for some

Anxiety over Europe’s many crises — a lingering pandemic, a raging war, soaring inflation, rising energy prices — has caused some voters to prefer to stick with the establishment. And Democrats have benefited the most from this concern.

The Democrats’ electoral lists received more votes than any other party in major cities like Verona, Genoa and Palermo, according to the latest projections.

4. The shine of the 5Stars has been tarnished again

The 5Stars have struggled to regain their momentum since winning the 2018 national legislative elections in Italy.

On Sunday, the movement didn’t even have many mayoral candidates running. And it took a heavy symbolic loss in Parma, the first city controlled by the 5 stars, where the movement has disappeared since its popular mayor, Federico Pizzarotti, left the party in acrimonious circumstances.

“Since 2017, 5-star votes have been dispersed, replicating what is happening nationally,” Pizzarotti told POLITICO. “His strength was grassroots activists, but now the movement is led by nationally famous people.”

According to YouTrend pollster Lorenzo Pregliasco, many traditional 5Stars voters likely abstained, while others went to the League or the Brothers of Italy.

The 5Stars have historically performed poorly in local elections, so there is still hope that he can turn around ahead of next year’s election. In 2017, the movement also appeared to be over before rushing to parliamentary elections the following year.

The 5Stars tried to form an alliance with the Democrats – more of a marriage of necessity than a love match. They ran in coalition in 18 races in the 26 provincial capitals, but never with their own candidate. And even when there was a coalition, often with the 5 stars supporting the Democratic candidate, it didn’t always work. In Genoa, once a stronghold of the left, the common candidate of the left was defeated.

5. A referendum strategy hurts the right

Despite its electoral advances, the right and in particular the League took a credibility hit after promoting a referendum on justice reforms that saw almost no turnout – only one in five eligible Italians voted.

Salvini, the leader of the League, accused the government of holding a one-day election and pledged to carry out the reforms when he got more government power.

Conversely, Democrats leader Enrico Letta called the referendum a “failure” and said the right path for such reforms was through parliament.


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