The outcome of Italy’s regional elections on Sunday 26 January in Calabria and Emilia Romagna was markedly contradictory.
In Calabria the combined forces of the reactionary bloc of the country’s CentreRight, capitalising on the freefall of the Five Star Movement since it became Italy’s leading party in the March 2018 election, romped almost casually to victory.
It defeated a candidate of the centre-left bloc, led by the Partito Democratico, an outfit, like its opponents, long mired in the deadeyed exercise of cynically serving the needs of the rich, powerful, and criminally corrupt of the Mezzogiorno and the islands.
In Emilia Romagna, however, there was a massive turnout in the election, especially from the major cities, Bologna, Ravenna, Modena, Rimini, etc.
The gap between the winner, the PD-backed Bonnacini, and his opponent the centre-right-backed Borgonzoni, in terms of experience and institutional credibility was huge.
Sections of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, along with three of the “radical left” groups, backed Bonnacini. Significant strata of former left supporters, long inactive, were remotivated.
Crucial to that was the role of the Sardine movement. For more than two months previous, it campaigned in all the major cities and towns, with mass demonstrations against the electioneering of Salvini and his supporters.
It underlined again and again its opposition not just to Salvini and La Lega but also to the racist and anti-working-class security laws introduced by him under the previous Conte-led coalition with Five Star, and still on the statute book under the current PD/ Five Star government.
Electorally, his hegemony remains intact, especially in the countryside and the small town peripheries long vanished from the programmatic radar of the centre-left forces that for two decades had remained in power in Emilia Romagna.
Politically, however, the Emilia Romagna result is a setback for Salvini.
Both the party and Salvini’s own personal ratings have declined, nationally. But Giorgia Meloni, leader of the openly-declared neo fascist Fratelli d’Italia now tops him. And in Emilia Romagna, in some of the areas contested, her party out scored La Lega.
The Fratelli d’Italia now stands at about 11% in national opinion polls, up from below 5% until April 2019.