In Italy Elections, Salvini Coalition Fails to Take Tuscan Prize

A center-right coalition led by the anti-immigrant League party of Matteo Salvini, the nationalist former deputy prime minister of Italy, made gains in regional elections on Monday, but failed to take the day’s biggest prize: the important region of Tuscany.

Mr. Salvini’s coalition was poised to win the governorships in three regions, shifting a local power balance further to the right nationally, with at least 14 of 20 Italian regions now ruled by its representatives, with a possible 15th to be added when the results are counted on Tuesday in the Val d’Aosta region.

The coalition appeared to have ousted the leftist leadership in the Marche region, with Francesco Acquaroli, of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, set to become the region’s leader.

And in two other regions, it kept control.

However, the center-right coalition lost in Tuscany, which has been ruled by the left since World War II and would have been a symbolic prize for Mr. Salvini’s dreams of a political comeback.

When he was deputy prime minister and the interior minister in a coalition government with the Five Star Movement, Mr. Salvini was widely seen as the most powerful politician in Italy. But when he called for early elections in a bid to consolidate his power, he was outmaneuvered and ousted from the government when his coalition partners joined up with the Democratic Party, formerly a bitter rival.

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Updated 2020-09-22T01:36:30.820Z

As his candidate for Tuscany, Mr. Salvini chose Susanna Ceccardi, a pugnacious, 33-year-old rising star of the League, who had been a mayor in Tuscany before relocating to the European Parliament.

Mr. Salvini campaigned heavily for Ms. Ceccardi before the vote, pressing his immigration views. But in an effort to avoid alienating voters in Tuscany, where he hoped that victory could propel him back into power, he moderated the explosive language for which he is known.

Despite Mr. Salvini’s efforts in Tuscany, voters went instead for Eugenio Giani, a soft-spoken center-leftist known for his long interest in social issues and with deep roots in the region.

“This is a vote of Tuscans for Tuscany,” Mr. Giani said in televised remarks on Monday evening. “We built an extraordinary relationship with the mayors; this is the Tuscan model built over the years. People know it here.”

ImageMr. Salvini campaigned heavily for Susanna Ceccardi, the 33-year-old rising star of the anti-immigrant League party.
Credit…Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Voters in seven Italian regions elected governors and mayors in about 1,000 cities on Sunday and Monday, with just under 54 percent of eligible citizens turning out. That dispelled speculation that there would be an especially high abstention rate amid fears over the coronavirus and because of political apathy.

In the northern region of Veneto, the League’s popular Luca Zaia was elected governor for the third time with a large majority. Mr. Zaia has been lauded by voters for his skillful management of the pandemic, including the early introduction of widespread swab and serological tests that allowed the region’s health care system to fare better than neighboring Lombardy.

Despite his professed interest in sticking with local politics, Mr. Zaia is viewed by many political analysts as a possible rival to Mr. Salvini for the leadership of the League party.

And in the northwestern region of Liguria, the center-right Giovanni Toti, also an incumbent, appeared victorious with more than 90 percent of districts counted. Mr. Toti had been praised by voters for successfully overseeing the replacement of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, the region’s capital, after it collapsed in 2018, taking 43 lives.

Incumbent governors from the center-left Democratic Party won re-election in the key southern regions of Campania and Apulia.

Italians also voted to modify Italy’s Constitution on Monday, overwhelmingly backing a reduction in the number of elected members of Parliament from 945 to 600 in order to streamline the legislative process.

The referendum, originally drafted by a member of a center-right party and endorsed by politicians across the spectrum, was approved by almost 70 percent of voters.

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