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Italy's regional elections

01 November 2019 Dijedon Imeri

Exit polls of the regional election in Umbria, held on 27 October, point to a decisive victory for the right-wing candidate Donatella Tesei, who is backed by the anti-immigrant League party (Lega), the far-right Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d'Italia), and the center-right Forza Italia. With nearly 60% of the votes, Tesei decisively defeated her center-left rival Vincenzo Bianconi, leader of a civic alliance backed by the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico: PD) and the Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle: M5S).

Tesei's victory marks the first time in the postwar period that a candidate from the right has won power in Umbria, a traditional stronghold of Italy's left. The Lega-led coalition's victory returns the momentum to its leader Matteo Salvini, who pulled the plug on the previous government in anticipation of early elections. Instead, Lega's previous coalition partner, M5S, allied with PD to form the second government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Significance

The Lega-led coalition's victory in Umbria reflects the continued rightward shift in public opinion even in traditionally left-wing strongholds. It also serves as an important indicator for upcoming regional elections in Calabria (December) and Emilia-Romagna (January).

The election in Emilia-Romagna is especially pivotal given that it is also a stronghold of the Italian left and four-times more populous than Umbria. The prospective loss of Emilia-Romagna would further divide the already fragile government coalition, prompting both M5S and PD to seriously reconsider the utility of their alliance.

Key here will be whether the leadership of both parties interpret such losses as voters rejecting their untypical alliance. This would likely preclude any substantial policy initiatives as both PD and M5S would increasingly prioritize early electioneering over policymaking. Although such setbacks would be unlikely to trigger an early election, which would probably favor Lega, government instability would increase as more voices within M5S would call for early elections, seeing it as an opportunity to remove the current leadership.

Posted 01 November 2019 by Dijedon Imeri, Senior Analyst, Country Risk, Economics & Country Risk, IHS Markit

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