Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi suffered his first election setback Monday, as results of weekend regional elections showed ebbing support for his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and gains for populist opposition forces. Voting took place in seven out of Italy‘s 20 regions on Sunday, during a bank holiday weekend that saw many voters stay away from polling booths. Turnout fell to 53.9 per cent, compared to 64.1 per cent five years ago. The PD prevailed in five out of seven races, but suffered a surprise loss in Liguria, in the north-west, and saw its overall share of the vote fall sharply compared to last year‘s European elections, when it scored a record 41 per cent.
The ruling party won in Campania, a big southern region with an outgoing centre-right administration. But it did so with a controversial candidate, Vincenzo De Luca, who is expected to be suspended from office due to a conviction for abuse of office.
The Northern League, a far-right party, confirmed its hold on Veneto, in the north-east, and convincingly outperformed the centre-right Forza Italia party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who took consolation in fielding the winning candidate in Liguria.
“We are the alternative to Renzi,” Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said in an interview with La Repubblica newspaper. “If the League takes more votes than Forza Italia, this must count,” he added.