Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered a setback in local elections on Sunday, with a weaker-than-expected showing by his centre-left bloc and a marked rise in support for the right-wing Northern League and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. With 22 million Italians eligible to vote in the biggest test for Renzi since last year’s European elections, projections showed centre-left candidates well ahead in the central regions of Tuscany and Marche and the southern region of Puglia. The centre-left also led more narrowly in the Campania region around Naples and in Umbria, one of its traditional strongholds. However, in a blow for the 40-year-old premier, who had been accustomed to steamrollering his political rivals since seizing power after a party coup last year, the northwestern region of Liguria looked set to fall to centre-right after a leftist anti-Renzi candidate split the centre-left vote.
In Veneto, the eurosceptic Northern League was on course for a crushing win to hold on to power in one of its northeastern heartlands and its bluntly spoken leader Matteo Salvini also sharply increased its support outside its home base.
Projections of the combined result showed Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD) with 22.6 percent of the overall vote in the seven regions, ahead of the 5-Star Movement on 19.6 percent, the Northern League on 12.9 percent and Forza Italia on 10.3 percent. Full results are expected on Monday.
Although direct comparisons are of only limited relevance because the electorate was different, the PD’s performance was far down from last year’s European elections, when it scored a record 41 percent of the vote.