Italian local elections encouraging for Democratic Party

Party emerged victors from first round of voting in 564 local contests

Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta heads a coalition government with Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.  Photograph: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters

Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta heads a coalition government with Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. Photograph: Laurent Dubrule/Reuters

Sat, Jun 1, 2013, 01:00


After a winter of discontent, the Italian centre-left Democratic Party (PD) finally received some good news at last weekend’s nationwide local elections. The PDs, whose Enrico Letta currently heads a coalition government with Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party, emerged the victors from the first round of voting in some 564 local contests.

Even if many of the mayoral contests will now go to a second round run-off vote in 10 days, and even though there was a low turnout, these elections still provided some very clear indications.

For example, the PDs emerged victorious in the 16 major cities contested, including Rome, winning five mayoral contests outright in the first round, while they go into the second round in the other 11 contests in the lead.


Falling Five Stars
Not only did these elections see the PDs consistently triumph over their government partners, they were also marked by a sharp fall-off in support for the Five Star Movement (M5S) of ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, the protest movement that stunned Italy by claiming 25 per cent of the national vote in February’s general election.

In Rome, where the M5S had returned 27.3 per cent in February, their vote shrank to 12.4 per cent, and suffered similar setbacks across the country.

But no contest carries more weight than that in Rome. Here, the PD candidate, surgeon Ignazio Marino, trounced the sitting centre-right mayor Gianni Alemanno and will go through to a run-off with a commanding lead.

Trends
Although commentators are careful not to read too much into elections where only 62.4 per cent of the seven million entitled to vote turned out, certain trends are too obvious to ignore.

Firstly, it seems M5S supporters have been disappointed by the movement’s almost total failure to capitalise on its success three months ago, many feeling it should have used its 164 parliamentary seats to make an anti-Berlusconi alliance with the PD.

Secondly, despite an abysmal general election campaign and the subsequent mishandling of the presidential elections, the PD faithful have remained loyal.

Thirdly, the last-minute direct intervention of the two “Big Boss” figures, Berlusconi and Grillo, counted for little or nothing. Fourthly, the federalist Northern League flopped, winning only one of the 91 biggest mayoral contests.

Finally, the electorate of Sulmona in the Abruzzo region is about to appeal to the Italian Constitutional Court following the 22 per cent of the vote picked up there by engineer Fulvio Di Benedetto. In theory, the engineer should go through to the run-off but he has been ruled out for a very serious reason – he is dead.

Poor Mr Di Benedetto died during the election campaign but he remained on the ballot sheet last weekend. Now, his supporters want to run him in the final vote. Talk about Dead Man Walking.