Lega Nord failed to win in Emilia-Romagna in what was billed as an opportunity to redraw the political landscape of Italy.
The affluent northern province has elected left-leaning governments in every election since the end of the Second World War, but pollsters were anticipating a shock victory for Matteo Salvini’s party.
However, after all votes were counted it has emerged that Emilia-Romagna has decided to stick with Partito Democratico, in what has been interpreted as support for the fragile government in Rome.
Currently, the Italian government is propped up by an unusual coalition with Giuseppe Conte’s premiership hanging by the threads of the Five Star Movement, Partito Democratico and other smaller left-wing parties.
This came after Salvini pulled his support from Conte’s government last September. He anticipated that this would lead to the collapse of the government and subsequently elections, in which he expected the League to make significant gains. Nevertheless, Conte formed a new alliance with the Italian left.
Salvini’s coalition of the right managed to win 43.6% of the vote share, up by over a dozen percentage points. While the left rose by little over 2% to 51.4%. The significant rise in support for the populists in Italy would, however, indicate growing support for a more radical set of politics throughout Italy.
The victor, Stefano Bonaccini, believed that the result ‘sent a signal’ about the state of Italian politics and went on to imply that the government had a significant boost in support as a consequence of the region’s rejection of Salvini’s right-wing populism.
Lega Nord invested a lot of resources into the election, and even claimed that he would hand the government its eviction notices if the League was able to claim victory. And despite the defeat the former Deputy Prime Minister was optimistic. He said that for the ‘first time in seventy years, there was a match’.
In recent years the party has soared in popularity. It is the largest opposition party in the Chamber of Deputies with 125 of the 630 representations. However, there greatest achievement came in the EU Elections last May where they won 28 of the 73 seats.
Since Nigel Farage’s party had a quartet of defections to the Tories, and two others will end their careers in Brussels as independents, the League is the largest single party in the European Parliament.
Despite Salvini’s defeat in the north, the right did pick up a sizeable victory in the south. The poll in Calabria coincided with that of Emilia-Romagna, however, the result in the south brought about an even greater swing to the right.
The right, led by Forza Italia, won 57% of the vote, up by 23% on what they obtained in 2014, and support for the left plummeted from 61.4% to 31.3%.
There are regional elections in Campania, Liguria, Marche, Apulia, Tuscany, and Veneto, later this year, and with the Five Star Movement’s performances continuing to worsen it may only be a matter of time before Italians have to vote in a general election.
The nation is not required to go to the polls until 2023, in which seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will be up for grabs. However, Salvini and the right, who are currently polling at 51%, will be hoping that an election is forced sooner rather than later.
By J Walters