Tue, Jun 27, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Berlusconi resurgent in Italy mayoral elections

Bloomberg

The second and final round of municipal elections in Italy on Sunday showed a resurgence in support for 80-year-old former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and its center-right allies.

Berlusconi-backed candidates won runoffs in mayoral races across the country including Genoa and Verona, while an independent candidate was ahead in Parma, marking a significant setback for Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s ruling Democratic Party (PD), which is led by former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

“It was a solid performance by the center-right bloc, which shows that Berlusconi is still a significant political force,” said Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of Teneo Intelligence in London.

The vote outcome “suggests that if the center-right parties can unite under a single leader they would be a force to be reckoned with at the general elections,” Piccoli said.

More than 4 million eligible voters were asked to pick mayors in 111 towns and cities, including Berlusconi’s heartlands in the north and the strongholds of the PD in Liguria and Tuscany.

Candidates from or supported by Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant Northern League and their junior ally Brothers of Italy confirmed good results shown in first-round ballots, and even won in Sesto San Giovanni, a city near Milan known as “Italy’s Stalingrad” for its historically strong left-wing leanings.

The Berlusconi bloc is running at about 30 percent in nationwide polls, neck-and-neck with the anti-euro Five Star Movement and the PD.

The mayoral vote tested the political mood in a country where economic recovery is still weak, unemployment high, and anti-EU and anti-immigrant sentiment is growing, fueled by waves of refugees from North Africa.

Gentiloni’s government is also struggling to tackle its latest banking crisis.

It was forced to pass an emergency decree at a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, committing as much as 17 billion euros (US$19 billion) to clean up two failed banks in the northern Veneto region, the nation’s biggest rescue on record.

GENERAL ELECTION

Italy is due to hold a general election in the first half of next year, though the rules that would govern the vote are unclear.

A multiparty deal to make the electoral system for the parliament in Rome more stable unraveled earlier this month.

The existing system is purely proportional and the main parties want to change it to produce less fragmented legislatures.

“The more likely scenario is that the existing system will be retained,” Federico Santi, a political analyst at Eurasia Group in London, said in a note on Friday. “This bodes poorly for political stability and reform.”

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