The ruling center-right coalition made gains in regional elections held in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions this week. Candidates backed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi held onto the two regions the center-right had, but wrested four major regions from the center-left coalition, according to ANSA, the Italian news agency.
The results in Italy contrasted sharply with those in France, where the conservative ruling party of Nicholas Sarkozy suffered losses in regional elections. The Italian regional elections are seen as a referendum on Berlusconi’s performance, although turnout was low by Italian standards, with only two-thirds of the voters turning out to cast their ballots, ANSA reported. The center-right victory was particularly surprising in the central region of Latium, where, according to ANSA, the center-right list of candidates had missed a filing deadline, which precluded them from appearing on ballots in the province of Rome.
ANSA reports that the regional election results showed an increase for the Northern League party, an ally of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party. The devolutionist Northern League was founded in the 1990s by supporters of secession from Italy because of the economic disparity between the industrial North and agrarian South – a major economic and political divide in Italy. Significantly, the centre-right not only made gains in the North, but even in the South (in Campania and Calabria, where the ruling party has cracked down on organized crime), according to ANSA, because the Northern League has broadened its appeal by adopting a more federalist and less anti-Southern platform that appeals to Southern Italians who favor more regional autonomy.
This growing movement toward federalism in Italy is in contrast to the growing centralization within the Europe Union in its various forms, a topic which I shall address soon in another post.