Major success in local elections for Italy’s centre-left Democratic Party

People of Freedom (PDL) party of Silvio Berlusconi, Northern League and M5S protest movement of Beppe Grillo all record embarrassing reverses

Centre-left Ignazio Marino celebrates after being elected new mayor of Rome.

Centre-left Ignazio Marino celebrates after being elected new mayor of Rome.


Italian politics has produced yet another helter-skelter moment with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) walking away with almost all the spoils in local elections.

For a party that only two months ago was in a state of disarray following its failure to win a seemingly “dead-cert” general election, the results at the weekend represent a significant turnaround.

Not only did the centre left win the prestigious mayoral contest of the capital Rome, but the PD also picked up all 16 of the other major mayoral contests.

Commentators are calling it a 17-0 victory for the PD.

Setback for Berlusconi
In contrast, the People of Freedom (PDL) party of Silvio Berlusconi, the federalist Northern League and the M5S protest movement of former comic Beppe Grillo all recorded embarrassing reverses.

Nothing illustrates the instability of Italian politics more than the performance of Mr Grillo’s M5S.

Last February, M5S picked up about 25 per cent in a general election vote that ensured an inconclusive three-way dead heat with the PD and PDL.

In Catania, Sicily, the M5S picked up more than 31 per cent of the votes. Three months later, it won less than 5 per cent of the votes in Catania.

The fallout came almost immediately, with M5S senator Adele Gambaro yesterday blaming the collapse on party leader Mr Grillo. Ms Gambaro claimed the tone and content of much of Mr Grillo’s post-February leadership had alienated people. In particular, she cited Mr Grillo’s comment last week that parliament “no longer serves any purpose”, an observation made after two of his deputies left the party in disagreement with his autocratic leadership on a parliamentary salary-related question.

More importantly, perhaps, many of those who voted for M5S felt betrayed by Mr Grillo’s failure to join forces with the PD in an anti-Berlusconi coalition immediately after the February vote.

Mr Grillo’s response yesterday to Ms Gambaro was typical of his leadership style, calling her “useless” and urging her to resign immediately.

Things did not go much better for Mr Berlusconi. Three months ago, he almost pulled off the impossible, coming from far behind to secure a 29.1 per cent vote for the PDL, just 0.4 per cent behind the PD.

This time, not only did the PDL lose all 17 major contests, but it also lost 27 of the 41 mayoral contests it won five years ago.

Nothing more emphatically illustrated this trend than the contest in Rome, where the incumbent PDL mayor, exFascist Gianni Alemanno, lost heavily to former surgeon and PD candidate Ignazio Marino.

Mr Marino won 63.9 per cent compared to Mr Alemanno’s 36.1 per cent.

At first glance, it might seem that these results make the position of PD prime minister Enrico Letta, head of a PD-PDL coalition government, much stronger.

In reality, with a newly buoyant PD and a newly crestfallen PDL, the tensions in his cabinet are likely to increase.