Italian voters have rallied to Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s Lega party in droves in Sunday’s national local elections, putting that party ahead even of its coalition partner in government. Preliminary results from the local elections—in which some seven million Italians could vote—showed that support for Salvini had sky-rocketed following his refusal to allow the African invasion ship the Aquarius to come ashore in that country.
According to initial results, the Lega vote increased dramatically almost everywhere in the country, helping the ruling coalition take control of cities such as Treviso, Brindisi and Vicenza, amongst others.
Significantly, Salvini’s coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, was the biggest loser, with its vote declining in many places, including Rome. The far left however also lost ground against the Lega.
Elections were held in 760 towns and cities, including 20 provincial capitals. Run-offs will be held on June 24 where no candidate reached 50 percent.
Candidates backed by the League won outright victories in Treviso and Vicenza in the north-east and were leading in numerous other cities where the incumbent mayor was from the centre-left.
“I’m very happy, for the mayors … and because we have reached the run-off in cities that have always been hard for us,” said Salvini, who is deputy prime minister in Italy’s new coalition government.
The Five Star Movement, which polled more votes than the Lega during the March national parliamentary elections, fared poorly in the local elections. It reached the run-off in just three of the provincial capitals and leads only in the Sicilian city of Ragusa where it already had the incumbent mayor.
The leftist Democratic party, centre-left, which held control of 15 of the 20 provincial capitals at stake and more than half of the 109 cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, looks set to lose many of these at the June 24 run-off.
Despite a first-round victory in the northern city of Brescia, the Democratic Party is at risk even in its traditional Tuscan strongholds such as Pisa and Siena, and is excluded from the run-off in the Umbrian city of Terni.
It also lost badly to the coalition alliance in the Sicilian city of Catania, where its pro-invasion incumbent mayor had held four terms of office.