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article imageRight retreats as a comic advances in Italian local polls

By Alessio Fratticcioli     May 10, 2012 in World
Rome - Berlusconi's party and Northern League lost badly as Grillo's 5-Star Movement advanced in local elections. Democratic Party held its ground while the Left gained.
Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party (Popolo della Liberta, PDL) and the anti-immigrants Northern League were the big losers when austerity-hit Italian citizens in almost one thousand towns and cities were offered the chance to vote for their mayors and local governments on May 6th and 7th.
In Italy's local elections, candidates for mayorship who collect 50 percent or more of the votes are elected immediately. In cities and towns where there is no outright winner in the first round of voting, all but the two candidates receiving the most votes are eliminated, and a runoff ballot is held after two weeks between the two most voted candidates.
The preliminary results from the first round of local elections saw PDL, the party of billionaire tycoon and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, failing to reach the second round in each of the major towns and cities, including Genoa in Liguria, Verona in Veneto, Parma in Emilia-Romagna, Taranto in Apulia, and Palermo in Sicily. In many cities and towns PDL collected less than 10 percent of votes.
''This failure represents the end of an era in which the right had Berlusconi as its chief and managed one way or another to win elections by imposing its vision of the world,'' sociologist Antimo Farro told AFP.
Although Northern League did not do better than PDL, it at least secured one mayor in Verona, Veneto, a long-standing Right-wing stronghold, where outgoing mayor Flavio Tosi was voted back in the first round. In Verona, PDL candidate Luigi Castelletti came just fourth, receiving only around 8 percent of the votes, [i]Corriere della Sera[/i] reported.
According to Cattaneo institute (here in Italian), compared to the 2010 regional elections, Berlusconi's party lost 54.4 percent of its votes, while Northern League lost as much as 67.4 percent.
Northern League ''suffered a major defeat mainly because of the corruption scandals,'' Farro said.
In deep-South Palermo, a former Right-wing stronghold, the runoff will see two centre-left candidates facing each other. One of them, Leoluca Orlando, a noted anti-mafia politician, came first by a huge margin. Orlando, who has been already mayor of Palermo in the past, was backed by anti-corruption Italy of Values (Italia dei Valori, IDV), Greens and a Left-wing party.
"This was a vote against the political caste," Orlando told AdnKronos.
In Genoa the favorite is Marco Doria, a Left-wing candidate, who came first by a huge margin.
Maverick Italian comedian Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, M5S) made the biggest gains, his candidates receiving 19 percent of the vote in Parma, 14 percent in Genoa and 9 percent in Verona, The Guardian reported.
According to Cattaneo institute, M5S collected an average of 10.7 percent in the North and 3.7 in the South.
M5S represents the first and only Italian case of a web presence which has been converted into a proper electoral list. As such, it is a new phenomenon in Italian politics which, according to recent polls, may become the third national political force, Digital Journal reported.
In Parma the M5S forced the Democratic party (Partito Democratico, PD) and its allies into a runoff.
According to Cattaneo institute, PD lost almost one-third of its 2010 votes. Nevertheless, due to the disaster of its Right-wing opponents, PD managed to secure a number of mayorships and is likely to gain more in the second round.
"These elections were for local governments, and the results should not be over-interpreted," wrote The Economist.
"But they shine a light on the levels of uncertainty and mistrust in Italian politics. [Italian prime minister] Mr Monti should take note."
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