Italy votes to slash number of MPs as right-wing League loses out

The leader of Italy's far-right League party Matteo Salvini about to address the media on the results of the regional elections, Milan, 21 September 2020.
The leader of Italy's far-right League party Matteo Salvini about to address the media on the results of the regional elections, Milan, 21 September 2020. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

Italians have voted in a referendum to reduce the number of parliamentary seats by a third. The same poll saw right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini fall short as his League party failed to make the breakthroughs he had promised in regional elections.


About 70 percent of those who voted were in favour of slashing the number of parliamentary seats to 600 from 945, in a referendum which effectively changes the Italian constitution.

The reform was championed by the co-ruling anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Italians voted on Sunday and Monday, also electing the presidents of seven of the country’s 20 regions and the mayors of 1,000 towns.

The vote was the first electoral test for the ruling coalition, made up of the Democratic Party and the 5-Star Movement, since the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed 36,000 people in Italy.

The leaders of the coalition partners welcomed the result.

Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti said the reduction of the number of parliamentarians would facilitate further reforms and promote government cooperation.

The 5-Star movement did not fare so well in the seven regional votes, but were very pleased with the result of the referendum, a reform the party had strongly promoted.

“We have done it once again,” said Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. “Those who tried to transform this referendum into a vote against the government received a boomerang.”

Right-wing suffers in regional poll

Following the regional vote, opposition leader Matteo Salvini failed to deliver the clean sweep he had promised for the right-wing coalition he leads. But his far-right League party remains the country’s most popular.

The coalition managed to win just one of the seven regions at stake and failed to capture the left-wing stronghold of Tuscany, which Salvini boasted he would win, as voters chose the soft-spoken Eugenio Giani, well known for his interest in social issues.

Salvini’s anti-immigration rhetoric appears to be losing its allure and his leadership style and personal approval also seem to be in question among many voters.

One of the big winners in this poll and a leader seen as a rising star in the League organisation and possible challenger to Salvini’s command, is Luca Zaia, the powerful president of the northern Veneto region. He obtained 77 percent of the vote and was re-elected for the third time.

Zaia is extremely popular, much of his status due to what many consider his excellent handling of the coronavirus pandemic in his region. Veneto fared much better than the region of Lombardy thanks to Zaia’s decisions to carry out widespread testing for Covid-19.

The other rising force on the right, which has made progress at the expense of Salvini’s party, is Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.

Her party has been gaining popularity and obtained victory in the Marche region, the only one in the country that changed political sides from left to right in these elections. After the poll, Meloni tweeted: “From north to south, Brothers of Italy is the only party that is growing in all voting regions.”

Despite concerns over coronavirus, well over 50 percent of eligible voters turned out for the weekend polls, dispelling concerns that the pandemic could lead to a high abstention rate.




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