Milan is resisting, and it’s the city on which Renzi has bet, more so since the start of the municipal elections campaign. But the Democratic Party is not satisfied with simply inventing a spin for the victory. It’s not even satisfied with the positive — hard fought but, at least expected — result obtained by Virginio Merola in Bologna. The Roman defeat, but most of all the shock suffered in Turin, the historical stronghold of the left, which gave way to the Five Star Movement, sends a shiver through the secretary’s room.
The war council is made up of Deborah Serracchiani, the vice-secretary; Matteo Orfini, the chairman; and Francesco Bonifazi, the treasurer. In the end, there will only be an official note with “best wishes to continue the DP’s good work” to the new mayors. As for the explosive election result: the picture “is very articulated. We’re losing a few municipalities where we’ve governed for a long time, and we’re winning in others where right-wing parties have been the majority for the last 20 years. There’s still a bitter taste for some very harsh defeats, from Novara to Trieste.” In other words, the results are “mixed.” But beyond their staid tones, a red alert is sounding, as demonstrated by the immediate call for a national convention on Friday.
“In any case, we haven’t won,” one PD source explains. And I believe it. For Renzi, the vote at the ballots is not an alarm bell. It’s a cowbell. It explains a situation in which the party and its person is in: The air is changed, the 41 percent gained at the European elections is a memory. The secretary-premier knows that this time he wasn’t an added value for his candidates. On the contrary. Having started the battle for constitutional referendum, a divisive issue that caused difficulties for many candidates in the middle of the electoral campaign, did not help. The backtracking at the beginning of the campaign wasn’t enough.
And then there’s the Capital. To overturn the results obtained during the first round, in spite of the candidates’ fighting spirit, was an impossible mission. At Porta a Porta, with the ballots just closed, Ettore Rosato, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, states: “We must acknowledge this result, starting from the mistakes made in Rome but, also, the good things that have been done.”
But the good things weren’t many, and the percentage toward which Bobo Giacchetti is falling, 32 percent, confirms it. The defeated candidate conceded before midnight Sunday, appearing in front of the reporters and announcing that he’s made his wishes to the new mayor, Virginia Raggi. He takes the responsibility for the result on his shoulders. “It’s a defeat belonging to me.”
An elegant gesture. But things aren’t what they seem, the candidate — from Renzi’s side, but sui generis — did his best. And, now, the failure officially opens the “Rome case” after a year and a half of commissioning by Matteo Orfini, after the party’s physiognomy was deeply re-drawn and — not least — after the leadership was stealthily subjected to many ill humors. “Today, we’re another party,” Giacchetti said at the closing of the electoral campaign. True. But what party has the DP become today in Rome? The answer was in the questioning faces of the supporters gathered Friday afternoon at Ponte della Musica, at the end of the campaign for the ballots, where the DP’s flags were forbidden. The campaign’s last surge, during Raggi’s frantic attack for the silent consultations, totally in Grillo’s style but totally beyond his abilities, did not help, if only to confuse the electorate.
Renzi has announced his will to enter the party “with a flame-thrower.” Maybe not just the one in Naples, the first one to fall and to not even get to the ballots, but, also in Rome’s. The temptation will be to pass the defeats onto the leaders who are not with Renzi: Ms. Valente, the candidate in Naples, is near to Orfini and to Orlando, the Minister, and the one in Rome, under Orfini’s direction. But if Renzi is going to try to find scapegoats as he has done until now, it will be only to escape from the reality represented by his party’s crisis. The setback in Turin reveals the fact that the downfall is also his own.
Milan province, however, is holding on. It’s impossible not to see it when the DP opens on the left — bad, good, it would be another story. The first results suggest 17,000 determining votes for Sala in the second round: exactly the same results as Basilio Rizzo’s in Milan, the municipality.
It’s the key which now will defeat the party’s minority, the one made up of Bersani, Speranza and Cuperlo. They worked in the electoral campaign to avoid being accused of “aiming toward defeat” but are now preparing the attack exactly on the rebuilding of the center-left and on modifying the Italicum’s majority bonus system from the list to the coalition. Bersani has been biting his tongue for days and promises to talk “after the vote.”
The meeting set for Friday by right-wing reformers was necessarily canceled, replaced by the Party’s convention. The assault is going to begin there. And Renzi will be able to decide whether to go on with his unabashed style, by inventing new internal enemies and new jinxes, or to straighten the bar, inside and outside the DP, and to open a new season. Before the referendum.
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