Tag Archives: Lazio

Don’t read too much into Marino’s center-left victory in Roman mayoral election

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The center-left candidate in Rome’s mayoral election runoff, Ignazio Marino, has overwhelmingly defeated the incumbent, Gianni Alemanno, by a margin of about 64% to 36%.Italy Flag Icon

That’s not surprising, given that Marino (pictured above) won the first round by a wide margin and fell just 7.5% short of the absolute majority threshold necessary to secure outright victory.

Marino’s landslide win is welcome news for prime minister Enrico Letta, as is the fact that the Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) won in all of the major municipalities holding elections over the weekend.  Letta, who leads a tenuous coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom), will certainly be delighted to see the local elections concluded, which augured tense competition between the PD and the PdL, despite their governing alliance in Italy’s parliament.

While Marino’s win is the top prize for the center-left, it is not necessarily an indication that the Italian left is out of trouble after its spectacular collapse.  That collapse started when it only narrowly won February’s parliamentary elections, despite expectations of a much wider victory, and it accelerated with the inability of former PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani to form a government or push through his top choices for the Italian presidency.  The reelection of Giorgio Napolitano as Italy’s president and Bersani’s subsequent resignation as PD leader cleared the path for the current Letta government.

But the PdL and its center-right allies have now held a consistent national polling lead over the PD and its center-right allies, especially as Italian voters become increasingly disenchanted with Beppe Grillo’s Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement), which has found that it was better as a protest vehicle than as a responsible participant in government, where it has refused to play any role in governing with either the left or the right.  The PD itself remains divided ahead of a leadership battle that will likely take place in October, so despite the fact that Florence mayor Matteo Renzi remains the most popular choice to be Italy’s prime minister (more so than Berlusconi, Letta or Bersani), Renzi is not necessarily assured of assuming the PD leadership later this year.

Though the PdL’s losses in local elections make it less likely that Berlusconi will trigger another round of elections, Italian politics will remain incredibly murky and fluid for the foreseeable future.

Alemanno, a stridently right-wing candidate with ties to the neofascist Italian right, came to power on a law-and-order platform, though he was never an incredibly good fit for politically moderate Rome, and his loss owes in some degree to local corruption scandals that have happened on his watch and to the perception of his government’s mismanagement of responding to last year’s snowstorm, Rome’s public transportation and other municipal woes.  In addition, Lazio province has been fertile ground for the center-left recently — the province elected the PD’s Nicola Zingaretti as its regional president in February by a double-digit margin against former regional president Francesco Storace, even while Bersani’s center-left coalition only barely won the national vote.

Marino came to politics only in 2006 with his election to Italy’s Senato (Senate) following a career as an organ transplant surgeon, though his election as Rome’s mayor should launch him into the top echelon of the PD’s future leaders.  Two former center-left Roman mayors, Francesco Rutelli and Walter Veltroni, have both led the center-left into national elections over the past decade.

The defeat should end Alemanno’s potential national aspirations, however.  Although he had been mentioned as a potential successor to Berlusconi as the PdL’s leader in the future, that role seems increasingly likely to go to Angelino Alfano, who as deputy prime minister and interior minister is the highest-ranking PdL official in Letta’s grand coalition.

Rome mayoral race heads to tense June runoff between center-left, center-right coalition partners

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If you’re were the United States and you’re like me, you spent your Memorial Day partying like it was the next Cinco de Cuatro.Italy Flag Icon

But in Italy, citizens were once again headed to the polls in local elections, and the most significant among the races is the mayoral race in Rome, Italy’s capital, and the ‘eternal city’ that so many centuries ago served as the center of the vast empire that stretched from Central Asia to Great Britain.

Today, while the scope of SPQR is more limited, it’s nonetheless the top municipal prize in the country.  Moreover, in the fractured world of Italian politics, it’s become an even more significant prize following February’s inconclusive national elections, and the weekend’s result will lead to more political tension over the next fortnight as the top two candidates face off in a June 9-10 runoff.

With a fragile ‘grand coalition’ government between the center-left Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom) and former prime minister Mario Monti’s Scelta Civica (SC, Civic Change), the PD’s Ignazio Marino (pictured above) and the PdL incumbent, Gianni Alemanno, will spend the next 14 days in a direct contest between the two dominant parties of Italy’s government.

While the mayoral race has been viewed as a test of Berlusconi’s enduring popularity, the campaign has focused more on local issues and the personalities of the two major candidates, Marino and Alemanno.  The more significant effect is that while prime minister Enrico Letta looks to his second month as Italy’s premier, and the coalition government attempts to craft a new election law, its two largest parties will be fighting against each other in a high-profile election for the next two weeks.  It’s hardly a recipe for good governance in a country with little recent experience of consensus-driven ‘grand coalitions,’ like in The Netherlands or Germany.

In early results, Marino had won around 42.60% of the vote, with Alemanno trailing at 30.27% support.  Marcello De Vito, the candidate of the opposition Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement), was far behind in third place after a disappointing result for the protest movement in many of the weekend’s local elections.

Marino is somewhat of a rising star within the Democratic Party — a former organ transplant surgeon, Marino came to politics in 2006, winning election as an Italian senator.  Since then, Marino has become one of his party’s chief voices on national health care.

With Marino just 7.4% short of outright victory last weekend, Alemanno seems unlikely to emerge from the runoff victorious, though he’s certain to spend the next two weeks fighting a vicious campaign for reelection.  Alemanno, with ties to Italy’s far right, was always somewhat out of step with Rome’s centrist electorate after two two-term stints by moderate leftists, Francesco Rutelli and Walter Veltroni.

Alemanno won a narrow 2008 election victory against Rutelli by emphasizing law-and-order issues, and his victory was somewhat marred by the support of supporters who chanted ‘Duce! Duce!‘ upon his victory five years ago, highlighting his ties to the neo-fascist right.  Since taking office, he passed an ordinance banning prostitution on the streets and has emphasized deporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes, while receiving criticism for segregating Roma minorities in camps far beyond the city’s center.  He’s also faced the slings and arrows that accompany any big-city mayor — less money to fund municipal services in an era of economic recession and austerity, criticism that his government didn’t respond adequately to Rome’s 2012 snowstorm and attacks that Rome’s burdened subway system is falling apart.  Continue reading Rome mayoral race heads to tense June runoff between center-left, center-right coalition partners

Zingaretti victory in Lazio caps subdued election for Italy’s far right

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Although relatively more attention has been on Italy’s general election and its aftermath and on Roberto Maroni’s victory in the Lombardy regional elections, Nicola Zingaretti’s victory as the next regional president of Lazio has launched the career of a new face of the next generation of Italy’s political leadership while delivering a stinging defeat to one of Italy’s most prominent far-right figures. Italy Flag Iconlazio

Zingaretti (pictured above), the candidate of the center-left Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party), won a whopping victory over Lazio’s former regional president Francesco Storace, leader of La Destra (The Right), a nationalist conservative party in Italy, Davide Barilliari, the candidate of the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, the Five Star Movement) and Giluia Bongiorno, who led a centrist coalition in the election.

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The result leaves the center-left in control of 28 seats in Lazio’s regional parliament, with 13 for the center-right, seven for the Five Star Movement and just two for Bongiorno’s centrists.

Zingaretti, elected to the European Parliament in 2004 and thereafter elected as president of the province of Rome in 2008, is the latest center-left star to emerge out of Roman politics, and he could well use the Lazio presidency as a springboard into a future in national politics.  Former Rome mayor Francesco Rutelli (unsuccessfully) led the center-left in the 2001 general election and subsequently served as prime minister Romano Prodi’s minister of culture and tourism.  Rutelli’s successor as Rome mayor, Walter Veltroni, helped found the Democratic Party in Italy, and thereupon led it (again, unsuccessfully) in the 2008 general election.

Zingaretti’s first task will be to restore integrity to regional government in Lazio, Italy’s third-most populous region.  The outgoing incumbent, the PdL’s Renata Polverini, resigned early after being implicated in a funding scandal whereby public officials were using government funds for private use.  Her predecessor, the center-left Piero Marrazzo, lost reelection after he was blackmailed over a video recording of Marrazzo engaging the services of a transsexual prostitute.

More immediately, however, the strength of Zingaretti’s campaign may well have helped Pier Luigi Bersani’s centrosinistra (center-left) coalition win victory in the senatorial contest in Lazio — Bersani’s coalition won just 32.3% against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centrodestra (center-right) coalition, which won 28.8%, a much smaller margin of victory than Zingaretti posted over Storace.

The landslide defeat is a setback for Storace, president of Lazio from 2000 to 2005, and one of the most well-known members of Italy’s nationalist right.

But it’s also a setback for Italy’s nationalist conservatives after a campaign saw Berlusconi shared some kind words for Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, and whose party, the Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom), includes Mussolini’s granddaughter, Alessandra Mussolini, a former Playboy model, was elected to Italy’s upper house, the Senato (Senate) over the weekend.  Continue reading Zingaretti victory in Lazio caps subdued election for Italy’s far right

Center-left poised to block nationalist Storace’s comeback in Lazio

Statue of Caesar Augustus, Via dei Fori Imperiali

In addition to the national Italian elections later this month, with Pier Luigi Bersani leading the race to become Italy’s next prime minister, and in addition to the regional elections in Lombardy, where the centrosinistra (the center-left) is giving the centrodestra (the center-right) a strong challenge in the conservative heartland of northern Italy, the centrosinistra is the strong favorite to win power in Italy’s third-most populous region, Lazio.lazioItaly Flag Icon

Conservative Francesco Storace, leader of La Destra (The Right), a stridently nationalist party to the right of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (PdL, People of Freedom), is hoping to return as the regional president of Lazio, following the resignation of the previous government.

The outgoing regional president, Renata Polverini, was elected in 2010 as a candidate of the PdL-backed centrodestra, after previously serving as president of the nationalist, right-wing Unione Generale del Lavoro (General Labor Union), a national Italian trade union.

Polverini, however, resigned in September 2012 after a funding scandal revealed that public funds were being used by members of Polverini’s government for private use.

So like in Lombardy, the key issue in the race is corruption, though her leftist predecessor, Piero Marrazzo, left office amid his own scandal when it was reported that he had been blackmailed by a video recording of Marrazzo cavorting with a transsexual prostitute.

In turn, Marrazzo’s predecessor, Storace, also left office amid the ‘Laziogate’ scandal, whereby Storace was accused of having abused his power to learn more about the members of a new neo-fascist party founded by Alessandra Mussolini.

Lazio has traditionally see-sawed between the left and the right — its capital, Rome, traditionally leans left, and the rest of the province leans right, though even Rome can shift as well.  Rome’s mayor since 2008, Gianni Alemanno, is a solidly right-wing PdL politician with ties to Storace and the far right.  In the 2010 regional elections, Polverini only narrowly defeated centrosinistra candidate Emma Bonnie, 51.1% to 48.3%.

The likely new regional president is Nicola Zingaretti (pictured below), who since 2008 has been president of the province of Rome, was a member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2008 and is a member of Italy’s mainstream center-left Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party).  Predictably, he’s run a campaign calling for more controls over regional spending and an end to the kind of expenses abuse that brought down Polverini.

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Storace (pictured below with Berlusconi) remains one of Italy’s more controversial conservatives — in the 1990s and 2000s, he and Alemanno were the leaders of the social conservative wing of the now-defunct Alleanza Nazionale (AN, National Alliance).  As the National Alliance moved closer to the mainstream centrodestra in alliance with Berlusconi, Alemanno and Storace found themselves increasingly on the ‘social’ neo-fascist right.

Meanwhile, the National Alliance’s leader Gianfranco Fini moved even further to the center, became an increasingly important member of the Berlusconi government (i.e., foreign minister and later president of the lower house of the Italian Parliament). Ultimately, Fini abandoned Berlusconi, and is now closer to the pro-reform center than to Berlusconi’s coalition, let alone the far right of Alemanno and Storace.

BERLUSCONI, STORACE UN AMICO APPOGGIO CANDIDATURA LAZIO

Although both Alemanno and Storace have retained ties with Berlusconi and the PdL, Storace formed La Destra in 2007 and, in the 2008 Italian general election, partnered with the blatantly neo-fascist Fiamma Tricolore (Tricolour Flame).  The coalition won 2.43%, not enough to qualify for seats under Italy’s elections law.

The legacy of fascism is never incredibly far from the surface in Italian politics — to this day, despite the proliferation of many parties across the ideological spectrum, Italy’s two main leftist and rightist political traditions follow from the divisions between pro-republic fascists and communist ‘partisans’ that developed at the end of World War II and into Italy’s civil war from 1943 to 1945 (which also explains the uncharacteristically hostile relations between the Italian left and right).

That was on display just last week, when Berlusconi himself caused a firestorm by apparently praising fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Continue reading Center-left poised to block nationalist Storace’s comeback in Lazio