It was a difficult challenge, although it seemed that some were taking it for granted. It was a national political confrontation, not a local one. It was almost a referendum, offering the choice between an incumbent government and one puffed-up party leader who wants to claim all the power for himself. That was the nature of the game Sunday, whose result could strengthen the government coalition and sap much of the strength of the worst right wing in recent Italian history.
The striking margin of victory was a thorough rejection of the manifesto of the Milanese private-beach-loving ex-minister, who put all of his electoral clout on the table for this campaign. He radicalized the clash and intentionally raised the tensions all the way to resurrecting that most tired and outdated media bugbear, the danger of the ferocious “communists who eat children.”
In Emilia Romagna, the Democratic Party and the Left were facing an uphill struggle, with their numbers constantly dwindling in recent years, both in regional and national votes (2014-2018). But thanks to the contribution of the incredible “sardines,” who have brought a people mired in abstention back to the squares and back to political office, mobilizing tens of thousands of people, the PD is raised back to its role as a bulwark in the battle to stem the Lega-fascist avalanche.
Democratic antibodies have developed in the squares of the cities where the popular mobilizations have taken place, the turnout has almost doubled and a real civic awakening has been set in motion. Furthermore, the commitment to a welcoming politics shown by the local church under Cardinal Zuppi, firmly on the side of Pope Francis, should not be underestimated.
Naturally, Bonaccini’s victory is a breath of fresh air for the PD, which has been the protagonist of many well-deserved defeats. The president of the region is cashing in the biggest dividend because his list has drawn the most votes, and also because he has made a success of the campaign while avoiding casting the vote as a national-level contest. Secretary Zingaretti is certainly reaping the benefits of this victory as well, but rather by default.
A part of the credit for the success in averting the danger must also be given to the Five Stars, despite everything. They clearly achieved the objective of a split-ticket vote, demonstrating that they are able to reason politically and that they understood that the sardine bell was also tolling for them. Bonaccini’s defeat would have spilled over onto them after their foolish choice to put forward their own lists after all the leaders of the Movement, from Di Maio to Fico to Grillo, had advised them to stand on the sidelines for this fight and wait until after the appointment of the new leadership, in order to have a clear idea of who they are, what kind of government they want and what they want to do in it. The fact that they refused to openly advocate for a split vote only added fuel to their self-destructive fire, with possible dangerous consequences for the national government and, more importantly, for the future of the country.
The Conte government, just out of the dark woods of passing the budget law, is strengthened by the Emilian vote, an obstacle against which the Lega’s charge fell apart. The right is forced to abandon its plans to oust the Prime Minister, at least for now. The situation has changed: the rallying call of “power to the people,” i.e. for early elections, with the claim that the Lega, FDI and FI are entitled to them because they are governing most of the Italian regions, is ringing more and more hollow. They should also be reminded of the fact that in 2008, for instance, during the Berlusconi 4.0 government, the majority of the regions were governed by the so-called “communists.”
Fortunately, the Constitution has not changed and neither has parliamentary democracy, so there is no necessary connection between the local governments and the national government. The problem is and remains a political one, and it concerns what the governing coalition is able to oppose and propose against the right. We certainly did not need any further evidence to understand what they are capable of unleashing in society, but their lockstep march behind Salvini, a salient feature of this election campaign, has only reinforced the democratic commitment to block their path towards both the Chigi Palace and the Quirinale.
Subscribe To Our Newsletter
Your weekly briefing of progressive news.