Right-wing parties registered a sound performance in a string of local elections across Italy on Monday, according to early results, in a final test ahead of the country’s much-awaited national elections next year.
The local races, held Sunday, saw the center-right coalition formed by Matteo Salvini's League party, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party set to win in the majority of 26 provincial and regional capitals that went to the polls.
The center-right parties confirmed their rule in important cities like Genoa and L'Aquila but also appeared set to conquer the Sicilian city of Palermo, which was formerly run by a center-left alliance.
Former Roma soccer player Damiano Tommasi – supported by a leftist coalition -- appeared to be in the lead in the northern city of Verona – traditionally a conservative bastion -- and will face a run-off vote with the right-wing candidate on June 26.
Political analysts closely watched these local elections to understand whether the far-right Brothers of Italy, headed by Italy’s rising political star Meloni, confirmed its lead over Salvini's League, which was originally the top party within the center-right bloc.
According to recent opinion polls, Brothers of Italy is the first political force in Italy with over 22%, making the young leader Meloni the most likely head of a possible center-right government in case the rightist alliance prevails in national parliamentary elections set for 2023.
In the past few years, the League has seen its electoral support sharply eroded after a series of political mistakes by its leader Salvini, including his recent announcement of a trip to Russia to negotiate a possible peace deal with Ukraine – an unexpected move that sparked a heated controversy within the coalition government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
In a new setback for Salvini, a referendum focusing on changes to the justice system pushed by the League on Sunday obtained only a 20.9% turnout, well below the 50% needed for it to be passed.