Italian elections. Abstention is growing, but the Democratic Party doesn’t seem to register the problem it faces.

Across Italy, voters stay home

You can win even when losing. And not just because the political commentary of the day after elections is always a race to spin the results, where no one never loses. But also because, this time, it’s easy to look to the defeat of rivals and ignore your own failure.

The Democratic Party was quick to point out the “net loss,” “flop,” and “collapse” of the “4 Star Movement” (as the Democrat leaders put it) and says very little of its own results. Except for the slogan “the united center-left wins.” That, however, is not Renzi’s policy.

In fact, the Democratic Party did not work in tandem with the leftist organizations in the regions, but mostly with the civic lists (local candidates with no national party affiliation), wherever they were numerous. So much so that it is impossible to make an analysis of the general and national vote, assuming the party is interested in doing so. In the 2014 regional elections when abstention was widespread, Renzi’s dry comment was “too bad for the abstainers.” On Monday, the secretary said he did not want to “chat” and went to visit Amatrice.

Yet abstention has rocked the Democratic Party. But first things first:

The Youtrend website calculated that in the 142 municipalities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, the Democratic Party got in average 16.6 percent — very low for a party that aspires to 40 percent. But it can be explained by the boom in left-centrist civic lists, estimated at 20.2 percent.

The phenomenon also affects the center-right, but to a lesser extent because two parties are always picking at Forza Italia: Lega Nord and Fratelli d’Italia.

Therefore, if the picture of the new Italian bipolarism says that candidates for mayor of the center-left and center-right have earned together 72 percent of the votes (while the 5 Star candidates got less than 10 percent), one must also add that for the center-left two-thirds of the votes come from the civic lists, while for the center-right is about a half.

From the perspective of the Democratic Party, it is really hard to get excited looking at the ballot numbers.

Altogether, in the largest municipalities, the Democratic Party, together with the civic lists, reached the second round in 86 cases, while the center-right will go the second round in 89 and leads three times more.

Restricting the analysis to the 22 ballots of the provincial capital municipalities, the Democratic Party and Forza Italia will be present in 20 cases, but the center-right lead in 15 cities, while the center-left in only four.

The calculation is provided by Senator Fornaro, of the Democrat faction MDP, who highlights that “center-right and center-left have exchanged the positions they held five years ago.” This time, the Berlusconi network is the hare and the Renzi supporters are chasing after them. Last time, the Democratic Party was ahead in 13 cases and the center-right in only two.

It is much more difficult to assess the performance of the Democratic Party in percentage terms, even in the locations where it loses sharply in comparison with the previous municipal elections. Both in Padua and Parma, for example, the Democrats left 11.5 percentage points on the field. But in Parma it has now, and only now, at its side a mayoral candidate list of over 13 percent of the vote, so a transfer of votes is likely. While in Padua, where the Democratic Party was presented at the polls with a similar “civic” format, the loss is more noticeable because four years ago, it already had even stronger lists.

Throughout Italy, participation went down.

The national average participation of 60 percent (compared to 66.85 in the past) hides the low results for example in Genoa, where less than half of eligible voters (48.39 percent) voted.

And with the analysis of polling streams in seven cities, the Cattaneo Institute rings a new wake-up call for the Democratic Party: Voters are fleeing toward abstention. Professor Rinaldo Vignati, who oversaw the research, summarizes: “Unlike in the past, this time, in the transition between political elections and ‘second degree’ elections, more Democratic Party voters abstain than those of the center-right. And this causes in some cities a reversal in the power relationships, for example, in La Spezia.” In the Ligurian city, the center-left has seen about 20 percent of its voters abstain.

It was much worse in Genoa, where 23 percent of the Doria voters abstained in 2012, and even a third of voters who had voted for the Democratic Party in the 2013 elections stayed home.

The scourge of the abstention in the transition between the 2013 political elections and Monday’s vote also hit the Democratic Party in Piacenza (33 percent of the Democratic voters on the run) and Pistoia (30 percent). But there is another interesting fact: It’s even affected the 5 Star Movement. This party typically loses voters to abstention only in comparison with the political elections, because it pays for its lack of local leaderships.

This time, in the transition between homogeneous elections, a share of M5S voters (7.5 percent in Alexandria, 12 percent in Padova) stayed home. Many in Parma, where nearly one in every two previous Pizzarotti voters (46 percent) did not vote. And so, according to Vignati, “in some cities the M5S is back to 2012 levels, when it still was a prominent political force.”

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