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Europe

Berlusconi coalition wrests four regions from centre-left

Text by Benjamin DODMAN

Latest update : 2010-03-30

The ruling coalition of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has fared better than expected in regional polls marked by low voter turnout, taking four regions from the opposition, including the coveted regions of Rome, Naples and Turin.

The centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has pulled off yet another win  in regional elections widely portrayed as a key test for the Italian PM, whose popularity had been slipping amid rising unemployment and a series of scandals affecting him and his party.

At around 65 percent, turnout was down seven percent from the previous regional polls in 2005, underscoring widespread voter discontent as the country grapples with its worst recession since World War Two.

Thirteen out of Italy's 20 regions were up for grabs, with Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition hoping to add up to five regions to its current tally of two.

Once again, the media tycoon did better than expected. His centre-right coalition held on comfortably to its stongholds of Lombardy and Veneto, and took another four regions - Calabria, the Campania region around Naples and the key regions of Piedmont and Lazio (Rome) - from the left.

For the Italian prime minister, who had campaigned flat out on the slogan "Love always triumphs over envy and hatred", defeat had turned into a personal triumph.

A chaotic campaign

The vote followed a tragicomic campaign dominated by legal wrangling after a PDL campaigner famously missed a deadline to register his party in the Lazio region because of a sudden urge for a sandwich.

An ubiquitous presence on TV channels, Italy’s flamboyant prime minister courted controversy by slamming the “party of judges”, whom he repeatedly accused of seeking to topple his government.

The prime minister also indulged in a series of macho slurs, saying of the Democratic Party’s Piedmont governor, Mercedes Bresso, that “as soon as she looks into a mirror she’s spoiled her day”.

Yet, the biggest challenges facing Berlusconi could come from his own coalition allies. A strong showing by the Northern League, an anti-immigration party that made significant gains in northern regions, is likely to alter the balance of power in the ruling coalition.

This could further alienate Berlusconi’s one-time key ally Gianfranco Fini, who heads the lower house of parliament and has grown increasingly critical of what he sees as the Northern League’s excessive influence in the government.


 

Date created : 2010-03-29

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