Sicily Defeat Does Not Bode Well for Italy’s Center-Left

The left is divided, the right is united and the populist Five Star Movement remains strong.

Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015
Then-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy answers questions from reporters in Modena, September 17, 2015 (Palazzo Chigi)

Italy’s ruling center-left Democratic Party was defeated in regional elections on Sicily this weekend, going down from 30 to 18 percent support.

The party suffered from the same three problems locally as it does nationally:

  1. The left is divided. The purist Democrats and Progressives, who split from Democrats in February, claimed between 6 and 10 percent support.
  2. The right is united. Sicily’s Nello Musumeci was backed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the national-conservative Brothers of Italy.
  3. The populist Five Star Movement appeals to voters who are disillusioned in the old parties. Its support on Sicily went up from 18 percent in 2012 to 35 percent.

National polls

The Democrats and Five Stars are neck and neck in polls for the next parliamentary elections. Each would get around a third of the votes.

Right-wing parties, including the Northern League, would split the remainder.

That means only a grand coalition between Berlusconi’s party and the Democrats or an anti-establishment, Euroskeptic pact between the Five Star Movement and the Northern League could get a majority.