Ital­ian PM’s party claims victory in 5 of 7 re­gions

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY COLLEEN BARRY

Ital­ian Pre­mier Mat­teo Renzi’s Demo­cratic Party claimed victory Mon­day in five of seven re­gions that voted for new lead­ers, but the real win­ner was the anti-Europe and once-re­gional North­ern League that showed strong gains na­tion­ally.

The votes for pres­i­dents of seven Ital­ian re­gions Sun­day was marred by low turnout, with just half of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing dur­ing what was for many a long hol­i­day week­end.

The North­ern League, led by Mat­teo Salvini, main­tained con­trol of the north­east­ern re­gion Veneto, its tra­di­tional turf, with a two-toone victory over the Demo­cratic Party can­di­date. It also backed a can­di­date from Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni’s Forza Italia party in Liguria, se­cur­ing his victory in the north­west­ern re­gion that has long been a Demo- cratic Party strong­hold.

Italy’s con­sti­tu­tion gives re­gions power over such ar­eas as health, en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy, although re­forms pro­posed by Renzi would limit their scope.

Salvini’s show­ing put him in a po­si­tion to claim lead­er­ship of the cen­ter-right from a weak­ened Ber­lus­coni, said Wol­fango Pic­coli, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at Te­neo In­tel­li­gence. Ber­lus­coni’s po­lit­i­cal for­tunes have been weak­ened by a tax fraud con­vic­tion.

“The re­sult shows the emer­gence of a new leader on the cen­ter-right: Salvini,” Pic­coli said. “There are ba­si­cally two Mat­teos in Ital­ian pol­i­tics. Mat­teo Renzi and Mat­teo Salvini.”

The re­sults in­di­cated Salvini had suc­cess­fully trans­formed the party into a na­tion­wide force from its orig­i­nal in­car­na­tion as a se­ces­sion­ist group with a north­ern base. Salvini cam­paigned heav­ily on an anti-mi­grant plat­form and against the euro, mak­ing Brussels and not Rome the en­emy.

Comic Beppe Grillo’s 5- Star Move­ment also showed gains on a re­gional level, and de­spite not win­ning con­trol of any re­gion re­mains the sec­ond po­lit­i­cal force in Italy af­ter the Demo­cratic Party.

De­spite head­ing to five vic­to­ries, Renzi failed to show the same strength as dur­ing last year’s Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions. His Demo­cratic Party lost in Liguria largely due to a split in the party, and the victory in cen­tral Um­bria was tighter than ex­pected, Pic­coli said. The Demo­cratic party also won Renzi’s home re­gion of Tus­cany, the cen­tral re­gion of Marche and the south­ern re­gions of Puglia and Campania.

Renzi did not im­me­di­ately com­ment on the re­sults, fly­ing off to visit Ital­ian troops in Afghanistan.

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