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Italy's Meloni claims easy victory in regional elections

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Italy's Meloni claims easy victory in regional elections
Giorgia Meloni cemented her leadership after candidates backed by her coalition won regional elections in Lazio and Lombardy. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy's right-wing coalition secured a clear win in key regional elections in Lazio and Lombardy, cementing PM Giorgia Meloni's leadership nearly four months after she took office.

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In the northern region of Lombardy, Italy's economic powerhouse that includes Milan, Attilio Fontana was easily re-elected president with the coalition's support.

With the vast majority of ballots counted after voting on Sunday and Monday, Fontana was on 55 percent, whereas his centre-left rival was on almost 34 percent, official figures showed.

In Lazio, the region that includes the capital Rome, coalition candidate Francesco Rocca, the former head of Italy's Red Cross, was on 53 percent with his main opponent trailing on around 34 percent.

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Despite a low turnout of around 40 percent, Meloni hailed a "clear victory".

"A result that consolidates the centre-right's coherence, and strengthens the work of the government," she wrote on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy’s regional elections matter – and who can vote in them?

Meloni's Brothers of Italy party made history in September by winning 26 percent of the vote in national elections.

She formed a government with Matteo Salvini's hard-right League and former premier Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing Forza Italia.

Salvini was quick to congratulate Fontana, a member of the League, writing on Instagram: "Victory. Thank you Lombardy. Thank you Lazio."

The League has lost support in recent years, much of it to Brothers of Italy, an insurgent force focused on nationalism and a promise to limit mass immigration.

The regional results suggest Meloni's party is still enjoying an electoral honeymoon.

Brothers of Italy came out top in both Lombardy and Lazio, securing around 25 and 34 percent of the vote respectively, according to the almost complete results.

The League followed on almost 17 percent in Lombardy and around eight percent in Lazio, which had been run by the centre-left Democratic Party for the past 10 years.

"Prime Minister Meloni strengthened her grip on the coalition while not pushing her allies too much off-balance," noted political commentator Lorenzo Codogno.

A YouTrend nationwide poll published earlier this month had put Meloni's party on 29 percent, compared to 8.7 percent for the League and seven percent for Forza Italia.

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Italy's opposition includes the populist Five Star Movement, which is polling at almost 18 percent nationwide, and the currently leaderless Democratic Party at 15.8 percent.

Italy's 20 regions enjoy a great deal of autonomy from the central government as they are responsible for everything from health to transport to education.

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