With around 7 million voters in 564 towns and cities, the recent round of local elections has been the first big test for Enrico Letta's government.
Although local elections have no direct impact on national government, the results seem to have both given a lift to the government and reinforced the position of Letta who, since its appointment as PM, had to struggle with the widespread perception that Berlusconi was pulling the strings in the coalition.
Monday's results underlined the presence of a wide popular disillusionment with Italy's political class and its parties -- epitomised by an exceptionally low turnout. In Rome, for instance, the voter turnout dropped dramatically to 45% (-18% from the 2008 run-off).
And yet, the polls still showed a significant (and to some extent unexpected) success for the PD. The party, which nearly imploded after loosing the 10-point lead it held ahead of the national election, won all 16 provincial capitals, including Rome.
This dealt a blow to Berlusconi's PDL.
In the capital, the PD candidate Ignazio Marino got 64% of the vote in a run-off ballot against the incumbent PDL mayor Gianni Alemanno.
Berlusconi took little part in the local elections' campaigns. According to some senior members of the PDL, this explains why the party performed so badly in this round of elections.
Another key feature of these electoral contest the results of the 5-Star Movement.
In spite of having gained almost a quarter of the national vote in February 2013, the 5SM saw almost all its candidates eliminated in the first round, and eventually managed to win only two towns.
The main causes of decline in the support towards the 5SM are linked to the lack of credible, qualified candidates in a movement almost entirely dominated by its charismatic leader. Growing concerns about Beppe Grillo's authoritarian style and controversial decisions were particularly detrimental to the movement's performance -- spreading discontent within its ranks and leading, eventually, to the resignation of two MPs.
Finally, the local elections saw a strong defeat for the Lega Nord, as the party almost disappeared from the political map of Italy's local authorities, loosing badly even in its strongholds in the North East of the country.
Further comments on the results of the local elections can be found at the following links:
- In this CNBC interview, Prof. James Walston (American University of Rome) discusses the low turnout at the Italian local elections and explains why it's positive for the ruling coalition.
- This article published by Reuters, argues that sweeping wins for the center left in Italy's local elections have sounded alarms for Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo.
- In this article (in Italian) published by LaRepubblica, Prof. Ilvo Diamanti offers an explanation of the political meaning of the local elections
|Ignazio Marino (PD), new mayor of Rome|