Italy’s local elections Is the sun beginning to set on Berlusconi’s government? 1 June 2011
Italy’s ruling People of Freedom party (PdL), led by Silvio Berlusconi, has lost local elections in Milan to the opposition centre-left Democratic Party (PD). Meanwhile Naples, a key city for the centre-left, saw the election of Luigi De Magistris, the candidate of the Italy of Values (IdV) party and the Chair of the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control committee. The elections, which took place in two rounds (on 15-16 and 29-30 May) saw Italians vote for new administrations in nine provinces and 1.177 municipalities – including Milan, Naples, Turin, Bologna and Cagliari. Polls were held in 17 of Italy’s 20 regions and involved millions of voters. As such the results give a good indication of the positions of the various parties in the middle of the five-year term, with the next general election currently foreseen for 2013. 27.5% of votes – an unexpectedly high score, aided by support from the PD.
Context A troubled government Mr Berlusconi’s party went into the election in a delicate position. In the last few months, there had been the break-up of the governing coalition and exit of the Speaker of Italy’s lower house of parliament, Gianfranco Fini; trials involving the Prime Minister; and, last but not least, the economic crisis. Moreover, the Government’s relations with its key ally – the Northern League (LN) – had begun to deteriorate over various issues, from the ongoing conflict in Libya to the carrying out of promised economic reforms. All these travails damaged the image of the PdL and seemed to indicate severe difficulties for the party in these elections – a factor in the Prime Minister becoming personally involved in the campaign, notably in Milan, where he campaigned in support of the PdL’s mayoral candidate Letizia Moratti. However, Mr Berlusconi (right, with LN leader Umberto Bossi) was bolstered – as in many previous elections – by the weaknesses and lack of cohesion on the Italian Left. As such, the PdL was confident of holding on at least to its historic stronghold, and pre-election opinion polls forecast a centreright victory in the key city of Milan.
The final results – including a stunning victory by the centre-left in Milan with more than 55% of the votes, and a win for Mr de Magistris in Naples with almost twothirds of the vote – can be seen as evidence of two shifts in Italian politics: the weakened influence of both the PdL and the LN; and especially a shift of centrist voters (supporting the socalled ‘Third Pole’) towards the PD. Mr De Magistris will be replaced in the European Parliament by Andrea Zanoni, also from the IdV party (which sits in the ALDE Group). It is not yet known who will take the Chair of the Budgetary Control committee; however, it is likely to be a Liberal MEP (following the convention of the Parliament) who will be nominated to the post following agreement in the ALDE Group.
Reaction The centre-right captures ground The Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was disappointed but defiant in face of the results - especially the defeat in his native city and traditional stronghold Milan. Mr Berlusconi said, “We’ve lost, it is more than evident, but defeat makes me want to react and our Government will continue its mandate”. The interior minister, Roberto Maroni, of the LN, said that the results were a “much needed wake-up call”.
The results The PdL loses Milan and fails to win in Naples The first round of the elections, held on 15-16 May saw a few surprises. Turin and Bologna followed political tradition by voting for the centre-left but results in Milan and Naples were inconclusive and meant a second round of voting.
The leader of the PD, Pierluigi Bersani, stated “We are happy with these results and open to collaboration with all those political forces who wish to look beyond the current Berlusconi Government”.
In Milan the PD candidate, Giuliano Pisapia (left), received more than 48% of votes while in Naples, Luigi De Magistris gained
Contact Robert Mack Chair, EMEA Public Affairs Practice
Irma Cordella Director, Burson-Marsteller Rome
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David O’Leary Director, Burson-Marsteller Brussels
What next? An immediate test of confidence The results are likely to impact not only local government, but also national political and parliamentary balances, alliances and Party structures. In particular, the victories of the centre-left in traditional and symbolic centre-right territory gives renewed hope to the PD. The opposition – which had been in the doldrums as it tries to define its identity and leadership – seems now to have gained new strength and courage. It is now vociferously calling for early elections. Whether this happens remains to be seen. Much will depend on a vote of confidence in the Italian Parliament in June (following the request in previous weeks by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. Nobody can predict at this stage how the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will vote. Meanwhile, Mr Berlusconi has declared that his party’s relationship with the LN will be reinforced, that the announced reforms will be concluded, and that his party’s leadership will be restructured under the stewardship of Angelino Alfano, the current justice minister and one of the favourites to be Mr Berlusconi’s successor. These measures – and in the short term, reinforcement of the pact with the LN – will be essential in helping Mr Berlusconi to survive the confidence vote and rediscover a formula that resonates with the Italian electorate.
Original text by Burson-Marsteller’s Italian Public Affairs Practice. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or visit www.burson-marsteller.it.