Italy’s center-left Democratic Party (PD) looks on course to beat Matteo Salvini’s Lega in a closely watched election in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, exit polls and early vote projections have indicated late on 26 January. The result, if confirmed once votes are tallied, would provide much-needed relief to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s fragile coalition government.
In the aftermath of Salvini’s defeat in Emilia-Romagna – where he has campaigned tirelessly across the whole region since mid-November – the risk of snap general elections is lower. However, the likely thin margin of the center-left win in this traditionally leftist stronghold shows once again that Conte’s PD-Five Star Movement (M5S) coalition government rests on rather shaky foundations. The M5S has been annihilated in Emilia-Romagna; it is expected to secure only around 5% of the votes. With the M5S in free fall, the PD will be forced to assume a greater role (and possibly face the related political cost) in the coalition government. This could further complicate delicate intra-coalition equilibriums and dynamics.
Looking ahead, the government will likely continue to struggle to deliver on most policy fronts. The PD’s stated plan to “re-invigorate” the action of the government by embracing a new agenda is unlikely to succeed. The M5S will be internally torn, at the very least, until its planned congress in March. Another intense round of regional and local elections in May-June and a referendum that is likely to take place in the spring will be important distracting events for both the government and the opposition.
Definitive results are expected early on 27 January. The Lega-driven right-wing bloc is set to win against the sitting center-left administration in the southern region of Calabria. However, in the key electoral race in Emilia-Romagna, the PD candidate Stefano Bonaccini is apparently on course for victory, winning 47-51% of the vote, against 44-48% for League party candidate Lucia Borgonzoni.