Italy’s Center-Left Surges in Local Vote, Shaking Draghi Allies
(Bloomberg) -- Candidates from the center-left looked set to come out on top in local elections in Italy’s biggest cities, potentially altering the power balance in Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government coalition.
The center-left won in Milan, Bologna and Naples and did better than expected in the capital, Rome. More than 12 million people were eligible to cast their ballots for mayors in hundreds of cities on Sunday and Monday.
The Five Star Movement suffered a blow, as did Matteo Salvini’s League, bolstering his critics within the party who want him to be more vocal in his support of Draghi’s policy proposals. Tensions are likely to now heighten within both Five Star and The League, the two biggest parties in the coalition.
“What happens now depends on Matteo Salvini,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, professor of politics at Luiss University in Rome. “There will be definitely a lot of fighting over the party’s political line.”
Even so, Salvini said he would continue to support the coalition and Draghi is likely to power ahead with his agenda until the end of the year, at least.
The success of the center-left is largely down to the deeper political experience of its candidates. And, unlike the center-right, it did not suffer public humiliation over long, drawn out negotiations with allies to compromise on candidates.
Originally scheduled for last spring, the ballot was postponed due to the Covid-19 health emergency. Held now, just as President Sergio Mattarella’s mandate is nearing its end, the outcome will likely give a sense of how Italians will vote in the next general election.
Elections for a new parliament could come relatively soon if Draghi succeeds Mattarella. If he doesn’t, then it’s due in 2023.
The League emerged as Italy’s biggest party in 2019, when it got 34% of the votes in the European parliament elections, but since then has been sliding in the polls.
In recent weeks, the League has been embroiled in a drug and sex scandal involving Salvini’s social media guru. It’s also been struggling to strike a balance between Giorgia Meloni’s far right policies and Silvio Berlusconi’s more moderate stance -- both politicians lead parties that are allies of The League, though Meloni is outside the government.
In Rome, the incumbent, Virginia Raggi of Five Star came behind center-right Enrico Michetti and former Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri of the Democratic Party, which are set to face off in the run-off which will will take place on Oct. 17 and 18.
Five Star remains the biggest force in parliament, but the poor results add to the potential tensions among Draghi’s allies.
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