Analysis. The Democratic Party won six out of nine of the provincial capitals in municipal elections, and the Five Stars won in Matera. They ran explicitly as an alternative to the right.

Italian Democrats conquer the cities, a rejection of Salvini’s forces

Two weeks after the regional elections, the Italian Democratic Party also won the runoff elections in the municipalities — six out of nine of the provincial capitals — while the right only managed to hold onto Arezzo in a bitterly contested Tuscany, where Cascina, the city where the Lega opened a breach in 2016 with Susanna Ceccardi, is back on the left.

Nicola Zingaretti was euphoric: “The political fact is that the electorates of the forces that support the government at the polls are uniting, turning into a common force and often winning. This silences the chatter and gives us a great responsibility. It is up to us to unite and give a common vision for Italy.”

Luigi Di Maio also recovered, in part, from the flop of the regional elections, and celebrated the M5S victory in Matera with Domenico Bennardi, who took 67.5% (with the votes of the center-left), and especially the full sweep of the municipalities to vote in Campania: from his hometown of Pomigliano (where there was an alliance with the PD from the first round) to Giugliano and Ariano Irpino. Furthermore, Termini Imerese won the first round, also in alliance with the PD.

“A new life force is coming from the territory, with new ideas for all of us,” celebrated Di Maio in the evening in Pomigliano (as Conte called him to congratulate him). “The coalition model has won, desired and voted for in great numbers by the members.” From the leaders of the Movement came a chorus of praise for the choice to enter coalitions, once seen as anathema, from politicians from Vito Crimi to Minister Federico D’Incà.

For the forces of the government, this was another breath of fresh air. For the PD, the success was more extensive: they held onto Bolzano, Reggio Calabria with the outgoing Giuseppe Falcomatà and Lecco (the Lombard city, winning by about thirty votes), took Chieti from the right after a decade, won the derby with the M5S in Andria with Giovanna Bruno and also conquered Aosta in alliance with the autonomists.

“A homogeneous trend,” said the PD leader. “The PD won where it had lost for years because it was humble, open and not smug. Throughout Italy, we are the pillar of the alternative to the right. It’s a day that gives us courage, now it’s up to us to reignite the engines of the country.”

“It would be a shame to think small,” was once again Zingaretti’s message to Conte, as he had already said after the regional elections. “As allies, we need a common project for Italy for the next 50 years, and we cannot go ahead with spite or suspicion.”

Then, he gave an account of his first year and a half at the helm of the PD: “I was a candidate after the 2018 defeat to give Italy once again an alternative force to the right-wing bloc. We have fulfilled a part of that mission.”

The PD secretary started work on the candidacies for the 2021 municipalities, when there will be votes in cities like Rome, Milan, Turin, Naples, Bologna. “Each city is free and autonomous to build its own project, with paths that must develop from below with a spirit of unity and renewal.”

“Of all the mayors who won this time, I had not chosen even one of them,” he said, “and this is a good thing: we will not decide the candidates of all the cities from one room in Rome.”

This was a response to Di Maio, who had hoped for a national-level negotiation of the governing coalition so as not to repeat the divisions of the regional elections. The idea was also touted yesterday by the Vice-Minister of Economy, Laura Castelli: “Now we are in quick need of a national negotiation on big cities.” The most delicate contest is Rome, where Zingaretti wants to find a challenger to Virginia Raggi, but has already been refused by a prominent possible candidate, David Sassoli.

Salvini celebrated his consolation prize in Piazza Duomo in Voghera, marking the local victory of the accountant Paola Garlaschelli. Salvini embraced the new mayor, raising her arm as a sign of victory: “Happy about the reelections, sad about the defeats (the one in Lecco by only 31 votes particularly stung), enthusiastic for the first historical victories in Taurianova, Senigallia and Venaria Reale.” But the hard defeat in Reggio Calabria of his candidate, Antonino Minicuci, weighed heavily on him.

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