Italy’s PM concedes defeat, as Five Star Movement steps to the plate

EPA/CIRO FUSCO

Naples' Mayor Luigi de Magistris, wearing a national soccer team jersey and a royal crown, celebrates his mayoral election victory at his caucus in Naples, Italy, 20 June 2016.

Italy’s PM concedes defeat, as Five Star Movement steps to the plate


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Italy’s defeated mayor of Turin, Piero Fassino, immediately underlined the most dramatic new scenario of the local administrative election: the centre-right electorate voted massively for the Five Star Movement especially in Rome and Turin.

Important leaders like MEP Matteo Salvini from the Northern League, and Renato Brunetta from Forza Italia, endorsed the Five Stars frontrunners after the first round.

But if Forza Italia is still divided on a possible alliance with the Five Star Movement, Salvini seems to have created, especially in Turin, a potential “new alternative” that could become a big headache for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The relevant challenge for the Italian PM now is not only the uncertain result of the constitutional referendum slated for October, but also the two rounds of electoral law confirmed by the parliament. The dangerous element of the law is that in case of a very likely second round pitting the ruling Democratic Party (PD) against the Five Star Movement, like in Turin, all the centre-right voters could choose the movement founded by Beppe Grillo or vice-versa. The Five Stars gave part of their votes to the centre-right candidate Stefano Parisi.

If the Five Star Movement is rewarded from the right wing, but also from the left, then the re-elected mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris, would also be in favour of an alliance with the Five Star. But in this case, Salvini would be out of the game.

Under this new scenario, if this trend continues consolidating, PM Renzi could be tempted to modify the electoral law, which is now very favourable for the Five Star Movement. But if this is the case, he would risk a “clear” no vote for his constitutional referendum as retaliation coming from the Five Stars. In this “tri-poles” situation, the PM will have to do everything to avoid an unspoken marriage between Grillo and Salvini considering that the two are sharing many “political battles” in Brussels. They are both very critical towards the Euro and the EU, the various trade agreements like the TTIP and they are both in favour of a more protectionist vision of the economy this in support of the SMEs.

If the electoral battle was very successful in Rome and Turin, big challenges are waiting the Five Stars especially in Rome. A first problem could come immediately from the candidature for the Olympic Fames 2024. Virginia Raggi, the new mayor, doesn’t like the idea of supporting such a big opportunity for the corrupt Roman mafias to get more “fresh air”. Unfortunately for her, it seems that some members of the city “government” would have expressed different opinions on this important subject, normally the Five Stars are against most of the important infrastructure project in Italy, like the new high speed line Lyon-Turin. Raggi with its poor administrative experience will have to manage a very heterogeneous group of councillors and at the same time follow the programme of the Five Star Movement all in a city which is probably the most difficult to manage in Italy and not only.

Looking then at how the Five Stars are managing in other cities, the picture is also rather  black and white with cases like Parma where the mayor is not following the main line of the political leaders or in Livorno where the Five Stars mayor, Filippo Nogarin, is under investigation for fraudulent bankruptcy conspiracy.

If the Five Stars were able to attract votes in two very important bastions of the PD in the other cities, the result was quite poor and the Five Stars did not even get to the second round. Surprisingly enough, the big winner in the middle-size “provincial” capitals is the centre-right coalition.

According to unequivocal data, the centre-right coalition won in 10 cities while the PD in nine cities and the Five Stars only in three cities. Previously the PD governed 21 cities and the centre-right only four.

So if the PD result was negative in the some big cities also in the medium-size provincial capitals then the signals were very bad all over the country.

It is then interesting to see how the Five Stars are slowly putting aside the leadership of Beppe Grillo and promoting rising stars like MPs di Maio or Di Battista, and probably Raggi and Appendino. Not using the “loud” and aggressive style of Grillo, they were able to attract the moderate vote. On the other hand, the PD and PM Renzi admitted the defeat. So, we can be sure that the minority of the PD will use this occasion to weaken Renzi and his entourage.

Concluding on the centre-right results, Milan is for sure proof that the coalition is still competitive. One big coalition means also to embark the “hated” minister Angelino Alfano who could, if well motivated, come back home and give a “bye bye” to Renzi, with this time a less inflexible Matteo Salvini maybe…

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