Italy’s centre-Right has won a landslide victory in Umbria, giving Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League party its first foothold in a region ruled by the Left for 50 years and dealing a blow to the country’s fragile ruling coalition.
“We are writing the pages of history,” former deputy prime minister Mr Salvini said, as the results became clear on Sunday night.
In the race for the regional governor, League senator Donatella Tesei handily beat Vincenzo Bianconi, despite Mr Bianconi’s joint backed jointly by the government coalition partners, the Five Star Movement and centre-Left Democratic Party (PD).
The League garnered 37 per cent of the vote, while the smaller far-Right Brothers of Italy won 10 per cent and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-Right Forza Italia 5.8 per cent.
The vote was the first key electoral test for Italy’s new governing alliance formed after Mr Salvini walked away from the government he had formed with Five Star, which he expected would trigger elections.
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Instead, Five Star made a pact with the centre-Left PD, their former rivals, shutting Mr Salvini out of power.
Mr Salvini promised to get his revenge at the polls and began campaigning hard in regional and local elections, with Umbria the latest in a string of victories.
“There is freedom in the air today after 50 years of poor governance, its as if the Berlin Wall just fell here," said Perugian lawyer Walter Biscotti, who backed the League.
“The PD-5 Star Movement alliance in Umbria was unnatural, and the people here understood that, and made them pay,” said Biscotti. “This is a warning for the national government, which is also in an unnatural alliance.”
Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement suffered the biggest humiliation Sunday, with support just over 7 per cent, compared to 27.5 per cent during last year’s general election.
“This is a significant blow to the Five Star Movement and to the PD,” said Erik Jones, director of European and Eurasian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna.
“The timing is not good, coming on the heels of a fractious budget negotiation and at a time when the leadership of both groups is under challenge.”
The Umbria results put pressure on the two divergent parties over how to manage the next regional election at the end of January in Emilia Romagna, a bigger, traditionally centre-Left region that includes the wealthy cities of Bologna and Parma.
“We will think a lot about this vote as we take our next decisions," said Nicola Zingaretti, the PD leader, acknowledging his candidate’s brutal defeat.