Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is put to the test

Local elections in Italy

The rise of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement (M5S), founded by comedian Beppe Grillo in 2009, has now become a challenge to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s power.

In June, citizens voted to elect mayors and town councillors of several cities across Italy, including Rome, Turin, Milan and Bologna.
These are the main results of the elections:
• M5S, which has largely been seen as a protest movement in the past years, has now become Italy’s second largest party
• M5S won in 19 out of 20 cities, where its candidates stood for mayor
• There was a general loss of consensus for Matteo Renzi’s centre-left party (Democratic Party, PD), although it held onto power in Milan, Italy’s financial capital and in the northern city of Bologna, by beating the centre-right candidates

Elections won in Rome and Turin

M5S was launched in 2009, by Beppe Grillo, a comedian turned popular activist and blogger. The party has managed to build its popularity on fighting corruption and presenting itself as an alternative to traditional forces such as the Democratic Party and Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right party.

In the second round of the elections, that took place on June 19th, M5S became the first political force in Rome where Virginia Raggi received 67 per cent of the vote and in Turin where Chiara Appendino, a 31-year-old business graduate rather surprisingly, clinched 55 per cent of the vote in a run-off against the PD incumbent mayor, Piero Fassino.

Ms. Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer, has become the first female mayor of Rome. She has promised to fight corruption after the “Mafia capitale” scandal, in which many city hall officials were involved in stealing millions of euros from services, covering everything from refugee centres to rubbish collection.

“A new era is beginning”, she said. “We’ll work to bring back legality and transparency to the city’s institutions”.

Until October 2015, Rome was governed by a mayor from the Democratic Party, Ignazio Marino, but he resigned after an expenses scandal and was then replaced by a Special Commissioner, Francesco Paolo Tronca.

Next steps – Political Agenda

Local elections have been seen as a first test for Renzi’s government.

He has sought to minimise the implications of the electoral results by saying that the success of M5S is due to the decision of Italian citizens to vote for a change and not only as a sign of protest.

Positive electoral results – in particular, with a victory in Rome – could give M5S a platform for parliamentary elections, due to be held in 2018, as now there is a dichotomy between the central and local government.

Renzi is now investing in the October referendum over constitutional reform, aimed at bringing stability to Italian politics, reducing the powers of the Senate and changing governmental structures. Arguably, this may have led to the defeat in elections in many cities, since Renzi was more focused on the referendum and neglected to give strong enough support to his candidates during the electoral campaign.

Words  Irma Cordella, with Martina Lusi (Burson-Marsteller Italy)
Photo  CC/FlickrSPÖ Presse und Kommunikation

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