Commentary. Salvini’s Lega party earned almost 30 percent of the vote. The blow to the Five Stars was so decisive that no national leader even attempted to save face. It is the quiet before the storm.

Local Abruzzo election foreshadows gains for far-right Lega

Although Sunday’s local elections in Abruzzo can hardly be compared to a national general election, they still paint a clear picture, almost a year after last year’s March 4 political earthquake, about who has doubled their support and who has had it cut in half.

The Lega got close to 30 percent in Abruzzo, foreshadowing what awaits us when we go to the polls for the next European elections and the next Italian general elections. The much-touted government contract seems to have become a millstone around the neck of the Five Stars. It certainly was that way in Abruzzo, with one party of the government alliance cannibalizing the other. The Lega’s task was made even easier, as the absence of a runoff and their inability to take advantage of the civic lists system showed the M5S’s support imploding.

The fans of Salvini in Abruzzo may be hoping to hitch their wagon to the more prosperous Lega-dominated northern regions—but they will be disabused of such wishful thinking very soon, starting with the entry into force of the law on “differentiated regional autonomy,” which is soon expected to pass a cabinet vote (on the agenda this week) and then gain the approval of Parliament.

Salvini is exploiting a propitious climate (he even managed to steal people’s attention during the Sanremo Festival), and is moving ahead according to the set timetable for his triumphal march—to a beat that is sounding more and more like a dirge for the Five Stars.

He is ready to escalate things further with the aforementioned “secession law,” which might appear to be nothing more than a law granting greater regional autonomy, but is essentially rendering the Constitution a dead letter, as it essentially takes away the national Parliament’s control over the budget.

In the very near future, the swaggering braggart of the Italian right is also planning to gut the public water management system, and top it all with the loosening of the laws on self-defense. These are three strikes against their frenemy of a partner in government, moving us closer to the day Salvini is anticipating: a new general election that would checkmate the Five Stars, giving the government over to the Lega and its center-right alliance. Indeed, Di Maio and his companions seem to be so stunned by the force of the blow that—apart from the reaction by the Prime Minister, which in the most charitable interpretation can only be called magical thinking (“nothing changes”)—no national leader has even attempted to put forward some face-saving explanation about the mess that the Five Stars have made for themselves with truly masochistic zeal. It is the quiet before the storm.

While it cannot be said that the PD is benefitting from the conflict between the governing parties, it is, however, true that the 31 percent result for the center-left alliance headed by Legnini as candidate for regional president was a shot in the arm (which probably heralds another good result on Feb. 24, when Sardinia will vote in its local elections, with a wider center-left coalition in the race).

The Democratic Party, in fact, suffered further losses (40,000 votes less than in the 2018 general, and 100,000 less than in the 2014 administrative elections), dropping down to 11 percent. However, those who voted for the list of Legnini (5 percent), who is a PD figure, should be added to the total. The latter is a master of cross-spectrum alliances, proud to have gained votes also from the disappointed voters on the right, and he has managed to pull together the scattered forces of the left—or, at least, that part of the left that has not gone over to swell the ranks of the party of non-voters, which is still growing, despite the boom in the civic lists running on local issues.

Perhaps the “Legnini trend,” together with the primary campaign and the end of the exodus toward the Five Stars, will lead to a rebalancing of the electoral weight of PD and the M5S, with a favorable change in the political balance in both parties.

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