What does Salvini's defeat mean for Italy?
Salvini's far-right Lega party was unable to continue its triumphal march through the regional parliaments: on Sunday it lost in the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna, where Stefano Bonaccini, the candidate of the centre-left coalition which governs at the national level, received 51 percent of the vote. Is this the end of the road for Salvini? Europe's media are at odds.
For La Vanguardia, Salvini's defeat is the main reason to rejoice:
“The results of the regional elections in Emilia-Romagna and Calabria are decisive for the stability of the Italian government and relevant for Europe. Is the rise of anti-European, xenophobic and ultranationalist movements inevitable? If we look to these elections in Italy the answer, happily, is no, no and no. . . Italy in particular and Europe in general have enough energy, moderation and democratic memory to halt at the ballot boxes those parties that move away from democratic values and take delight in exacerbating social problems, disparaging immigrants and maintaining dangerous foreign policy contacts.”
The Stars have burned out
The big loser in Emilia-Romagna isn't Matteo Salvini and the right-wing Lega but the Partito Democratico's coalition partner Cinque Stelle, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:
“The protest party founded by Beppe Grillo in Bologna still had the most votes in the 2018 general election in Emilia-Romagna, but on Sunday its share was literally decimated. The last big mistake of resigning boss Luigi Di Maio was to put forward a M5S candidate instead of supporting the one presented by the Social Democrats. In so doing Cinque Stelle not only risked helping Salvini to victory, but now they also can't claim to have played any part in their coalition partner's success. And they risk losing further influence within the government. Despite the many bones of contention within the party, the PD can afford to be much more confident in the future.”
Government in Rome lacks support
In spite of heavy losses in the regional elections, the Five Star leads the governing coalition in Rome. This highlights a serious problem of representative democracy, warns political scientist Angelo Panebianco in Corriere della Sera:
“The party that won and still holds the relative majority of seats in the last national elections is proving to be a meteorite party that has less and less support in the country. ... This is not a condition that can guarantee solid and broad support for the work of the current government. ... Such a wide gap between the mood in the country and the government could also harm the Partito Democratico in the long term. It certainly emerged well from the regional elections, but it is still in a government with a senior partner who no longer enjoys the support of the voters.”
Surprising stability, but for how long?
The outcome of the regional elections may bring stability to Italy for the time being, but in the long run a Salvini government still seems likely, The Times argues:
“The League won in Calabria on Sunday and continues to lead the national polls. ... The League learnt during its previous spell in power after 2018 that the real constraint on Italy was not Brussels but the markets. Indeed, the League has dropped all talk of quitting the euro from party policy. Even so, it is notable that after such a turbulent decade neither of the two main parties has a coherent plan to address the real causes of Italy's malaise: an inefficient bureaucracy, a slow-moving justice system and high levels of corruption, particularly in the south. Until they do, Italy's surprising stability cannot be taken for granted.”
A big thank you to the Sardines
The PD was ultimately only able to maintain its grip in the region thanks to the Sardine protest movement, judges La Repubblica:
“Despite all those who have ridiculed them in the past two months (and sneered at their programme and political recipes) [Sardine spokesman] Mattia Santori and the other members of the movement have roused the people and restored their dignity and pride. They got people out of their homes and first on to the streets and then out to vote. The left must thank them. [PD leader] Zingaretti did it, sincerely and humbly. But now he must also and above all offer them a shared political home.”
The main thing is that people went out to vote
Corriere della Sera sees the high voter turnout as the main factor behind the result:
“The outcome is legitimised by the enormous increase in voter turnout. It's too early to decide whether this is a consequence of Salvini's hammering campaign, that is his desperate and frustrated attempt to turn the vote into a referendum on the Conte government in Rome. Or whether the high voter turnout is due to the mobilisation of the youth by Mattia Santori's Sardines, who sounded the alarm against the Lega's strategy. The result is any case positive and credit goes to both, regardless of who won.”