Italy’s hard-right League leader, Matteo Salvini has failed to overturn decades of left-wing rule in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna in an election that brought relief to the embattled centre-left.
With 98 per cent of the ballots counted, incumbent Democratic Party (PD) Governor Stefano Bonaccini had won 51.4 per cent of the vote from Sunday’s poll, compared with 43.7 per cent for Lucia Borgonzoni, the candidate backed by the League and its allies, interior ministry data showed.
Salvini had campaigned relentlessly in the region, a left-wing stronghold for 70 years, since the start of the year, seeking a shock victory that he hoped would bring down the national government, which includes the PD and is driven by internal strife.
“The ruling majority comes out [of the regional elections] stronger,” said PD leader Nicola Zingaretti, adding that Salvini had failed in his attempt to “shove the government out”.
Salvini’s bloc did secure a resounding victory in a separate regional election on Sunday in the underdeveloped southern part of Italy, Calabria.
But the main prize was undoubtedly Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s wealthiest regions, which is home to the Ferrari sports car and Parmesan cheese.
“Emilia-Romagna has sent a signal. Salvini knows how to talk about problems, but he doesn’t know how to sort them out and the people have responded,” Zingaretti said.
Underscoring the enormous interest in the ballot, turnout hit 68 per cent, some 30 points up on the last such election in 2014.
But while the PD dodged disaster, its coalition partner, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, won just 3.5 per cent of the vote in Emilia-Romagna and little more than 7 per cent in Calabria.
The party was the largest group in 2018 national elections with 33 per cent backing, but has seen its support slide in recent months leading to a wave of defections amongst its legislators and the resignation of its leader Luigi Di Maio.