Center-left wins in Rome, elsewhere a blow against Italy’s right

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Center-left mayoral candidate Roberto Gualtieri shows a V-sign at his party’s headquarters in Rome on Monday, October 18, 2021. The Romans are waiting to find out who will be their next mayor after the runoff elections in the Italian capital on Monday. The leaders in the first ballot two weeks earlier, Enrico Michetti, a new politician supported by a far-right leader, and Roberto Gualtieri, a Democrat and former finance minister, ran in the runoff election on Sunday and Monday. Italian writing in the background read: “Thank you! Now Rome. We all. (AP Photo / Gregorio Borgia)

AP

Italy’s center-left won strong mayor elections in Rome, Turin and several other mayoral elections on Monday, inflicting embarrassing defeats on anti-migrant and far-right parties hoping to win Italy’s prime office in the next national elections.

Roberto Gualtieri of the Democratic Party of Italy defeated a challenger chosen by the Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist roots, to win the City Hall of Rome, receiving around 60% of the vote, with almost all of the votes tallied became.

Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta predicted that the center-left victories over right-wing alliances will dampen any pressure from conservative forces, including the anti-migrant party League, to hold early national elections. This improves Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s prospects of remaining in office until the end of Parliament’s term in 2023.

Letta also interpreted the winning alliances anchored by the Democratic Party as a clear confirmation of Draghi’s tough anti-pandemic policy. This includes a recently introduced Green Pass decree that workers must be vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19, or tested negative for the virus in order to enter their workplaces. The rule has sparked protests, including violence, mostly from right-wing opponents.

“We (in the center-left) were on the side of the extension of the Green Pass, on the side of the vast majority of Italians who want to work and want the country to be revitalized,” by getting out of the pandemic, Letta said to reporters.

The center-left’s only significant defeat came in Trieste, where center-right mayor Roberto Dipiazza won another term with 51.5% of the vote. Many angry dockers in this northeastern city have defied the Green Pass rule. On Monday, riot police repeatedly used water cannons to disperse the protest, but protesters still dragged in with officers until late in the evening.

In recent months’ national opinion polls, both Matteo Salvini of the League and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy were on par in popularity. Meloni, whose far-right party is the main opposition party in parliament, bitterly opposed the Green Pass job requirements. Salvini, whose League is a member of the Draghi coalition, had tried unsuccessfully to convince Draghi to soften the rule by providing free COVID-19 tests for workers who speak out against vaccinations.

“It seemed inevitable” that for the right, the only question was who would be the next prime minister, Salvini or Meloni, “Letta said, but added that the electoral victories of the center-left mayors are” brighter than all expectations ” was.

In troubled Rome, Gualtieri defeated Enrico Michetti, a newcomer politician handpicked by Meloni, who led the low turnout of 40% to belittle the democratic candidate’s victory.

“If the mayor of Rome is elected by 24% of the electorate, there is a crisis of democracy,” said Meloni.

Gualtieri is faced with a Herculean task of cleaning up a city where garbage and recycling collections are often inadequate, public buses have caught fire, and broken elevators have put key metro stations out of order.

But “this city can be reborn,” he emphasized.

Meloni admitted that “the center-right will be lost in these mayoral elections”.

But she claimed that it was the populist 5-stars who suffered the real “debacle” that recalibrated Italy’s national politics to a question of center-right vs. center-left success in 2018, making them the biggest Party of parliament and kingmaker in deciding who will be prime minister.

Rome’s current five-star mayor, Virginia Raggi, was eliminated in the first round of voting, and the five-star mayor of Turin had declined to run for another term.

Salvini’s right-wing party from the north suffered some major setbacks in the mayoral elections, including a significant first-round defeat for his candidate for Milan, Italy’s financial capital, who re-elected its center-left mayor.


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