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POLITICS

Elections: Italy’s government boosted as the right fails to take Tuscany in key vote

Italy's right took three more seats, meaning it now rules 15 out of the 20 Italian regions. But it wasn't able to snatch Tuscany despite a hard-fought battle.

Elections: Italy's government boosted as the right fails to take Tuscany in key vote
A voter in Rome on Sunday. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A center-right coalition led by the once-powerful League leader Matteo Salvini won in three Italian regions but failed to snatch the left-wing stronghold of Tuscany, where the close-fought battle was seen as decisive for the country – and for Salvini.

READ ALSO: Why the rest of Italy is watching Tuscany's regional elections closely

The right triumphed instead in its usual strongholds of Veneto and Liguria, as well as taking Marche.

This means 15 of Italy's regions are now ruled by the right-wing coalition, which is made up of Salvini's league,  Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, and Fratelli d'Italia, led by Gioirgia Meloni.

But the defeat in the high-profile battle for the left-wing bastion of Tuscany, ruled by the left for 50 years, came as a blow for the right-wing coalition and a boost to the national government.

“It's an extraordinary victory,” the region's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) candidate Eugenio Giani said, as Salvini admitted “we knew it would be an extremely difficult fight”.
 
Experts had warned that a flurry of right-wing victories in the elections in seven regions could further fracture the brittle national governing coalition
of the centre-left PD and its ruling partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).
 
In the southern region of Puglia too, the left fought off a bid by Giorgia Meloni's anti-immigration, anti-LGBT Brothers of Italy.
 
The left easily held Campania in the south.
 
 
“What could have been elections that hammered the coalition government, that caused it to break apart, have transformed into elections that will allow
it to survive and stay the course,” the Corriere della Sera's editor in chief Luciano Fontana said.
 
The two-day vote went ahead despite a threatened resurgence of the coronavirus in Italy, which is now registering more than 1,500 new cases daily.
 
Ballots were cast nationwide for a referendum on cutting parliament numbers, which passed easily.
 
 
A win in Tuscany would have bolstered the right's claim that the uneasy coalition was politically weak, and Italy's president should bring forward the 2023 national election.
 
The current government was not elected, but formed from the askes of the prevous government, which collapsed following a power grab by Matteo Salvini, whose party was formerly part of the coalition.
 
Salvini had hoped further victory at regional elections would push him back into the limelight and silenced his rivals for the far-right crown.
 
League head Matteo Salvini speaks to the media on Monday September 21st. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP
 
His popularity soared when he served as interior minister and deputy prime minister in the last coalition government, pursuing hardline policies that were hostile to immigrants.
 
But with the collapse of that administration last year and the coronavirus crisis this year his profile – and his standing in the opinion polls – has
fallen. And Monday's results looked unlikely to lift it again.
 
“Salvini has been stopped in his tracks. The Tuscans did not fall for his propaganda,” Simona Bonafe, the PD's party leader in Tuscany where turnout was
62 percent, was quoted as saying by Florence-based newspaper La Nazione.
 
Giani's far-right rival in Tuscany, Susanna Ceccardi, was until recently known only to the inhabitants of Casina, a porticoed town near Pisa, which was
the first to turn to the League when she was elected mayor four years ago.
 
 
Since then, Renaissance art cities from Pisa to Siena in Tuscany have flipped to the right.
 
But the region has no glaring problems to drive a protest vote – the health system has performed well during the Covid-19 pandemic, immigrants are
well integrated, and the quality of life is high, political journalist Raffaele Palumbo told AFP.
 
Roberto Bianchi, contemporary history professor at Florence University, said the right has long tried to woo Tuscany — to little effect.
 
“In 2000, a frustrated Berlusconi even launched a campaign to 'de-Tuscanise Tuscany'. It was a disaster,” he said.

Member comments

  1. You have to laugh at Italian politics, the oppositions hold 15 out of the 20 regions yet the sitting governments feels much safer now that they won in Tuscany and will remain in power. What a crazy world we live in.

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ITALIAN POLITICS

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.

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