Italy municipal 2011
Municipal and provincial elections were held in Italy on May 15-16 and 29-30. Roughly 135 major municipalities and eleven provinces were up, most notably the second and third largest cities in Italy – Milan and Naples. Given how personalized Italian politics is (around Silvio Berlusconi, of course) since 1994, these elections were yet another referendum on Berlusconi. Berlusconi, of course, has been taking hates with ‘Rubygate’, ‘bunga-bunga’, his judicial ‘reforms’ and various other things.
Milan and Naples were the most symbolic contests. Milan has been the symbol of Berlusconi’s Italy, having been ruled by centre-right mayors since 1993, and is widely considered to be the centre of Berlusconi’s electoral machinery and his home base. Naples was counted on by the right as the certain pickup, to complete the right’s recent clean sweep of Naples province and the region of Campania. Naples has been ruled by the centre-left’s Rosa Russo Iervolino since 2001. Other major cities up for re-election in the runoffs included Trieste (PdL incumbent) and Cagliari (PdL incumbent). The left held Turin and Bologna easily in the first round two weeks ago.
The contest in Milan pitted the left’s Giuliano Pisapia against incumbent mayor PdL Letizia Moratti, in office since 2006. Giuliano Pisapia is a lawyer and former parliamentarian for Proletarian Democracy and the Communist Refoundation, and surprisingly won the PD primary despite not being a PD member thanks to strong support from Nichi Vendola’s Left-Ecology and Freedom (SEL) party. Berlusconi, himself the top candidate on the PdL list in Milan, rambled on about how Milan would be overrun by Muslims, Roms and gays if Pisapia won and derided Pisapia as a communist. Moratti, in a debate, falsely accussed Pisapia of having a conviction for a car theft. That accusation, later proven to be false, may have served to turn the table against her. In the first round, Pisapia won 48% against 41.6% for Moratti, with the UDC’s Manfredi Palmeri taking 5.5% and Mattia Calise from Beppe Grillo’s grouping taking 3.2%. Turnout was 67.6%, a number which declined only slightly to 67.4% during the runoff.
In Naples, the centre-right’s Giovanni Lettieri came out ahead two weeks ago, but with a disappointing 38.5% against a divided left. The PD’s Mario Morcone placed third with 19.15% against 27.5% for Luigi de Magistris, a former prosecutor and candidate of the Italy of Values (IdV) party. Raimondo Pasquino, the UDC/FLI candidate won 9.7% and Clemente Mastella of UDEUR won 2.2%. The results of the first round, in which turnout was 60.3%, placed Lettieri in a surprisingly feeble position if the left could unite its forces.
Here are the main runoff results:
Giuliano Pisapia (SEL-PD) 55.1%
Letizia Moratti (PdL) 44.89%
Luigi De Magistris (IdV) 65.37%
Giovanni Lettieri (PdL) 34.62%
Roberto Cosolini (PD) 57.51%
Roberto Antonione (PdL) 42.49%
Massimo Zedda (PD) 59.42%
Massimo Fantola (PdL) 40.57%
The first round saw major left-wing gains, but the runoffs saw a left-wing landslide in most of the towns and provinces up for election. In Milan, Pisapia was able to win the bulk of the UDC and Beppe Grillo’s voters, while Moratti increased her showing by only 3% from the first round. The fearmongering campaign of the PdL, accusing Pisapia of all sorts of things and talking about the gays and Muslims taking over the place backfired badly. The first round results made a left-wing victory likely in Milan, but the crushing margin was not expected and, at any rate, it remains a major symbolic blow to Berlusconi in the city which has been the symbol of right-wing Berlusconian Italy since 1993. In Naples, turnout dropped roughly 10% (turnout also dropped a lot in Trieste and Cagliari), and judging from the results there was a major enthusiasm GOTV gap between left and right. The narrative of the media between the two rounds talked extensively about how the first round had been a blow to the right, a narrative which probably motivated left-wingers to deal a blow-out blow in the runoff but demotivated right-wing voters. Lettieri won less in the runoff than in the first round, which means that not only did he fail to pickup any new voters from the centre-right UDC/FLI or UDEUR, but he also failed to hold on to a few of his first round voters. De Magistris won a landslide, all the more impressive and disastrous for the right considering how Naples was the right-wing target. The left also picked up Trieste and Cagliari, two right-wing cities, the latter of which has apparently been held by the right since World War II. La Repubblica‘s graphic tells me that the left-right balance, 73-54 in the left’s favour before these elections, turned 83-36 in the left’s favour this year.