Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni won re-election with more than 60 per cent of the vote



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Italy’s new centre-left government
heartened by local election results

By Andrew Stevens, Political Editor

30 May 2006: While new Italian premier Romano Prodi has every reason to be cheerful at the encouraging results in the local polls held 28-29 May 2006, local factors and strong mayors could be said to have delivered the outcome. For Silvio Berlusconi, loser of the last month’s general election, the results merely compound his party’s agony. In Rome, Turin and Naples, the centre-left governing coalition achieved an increase in seats and the safe return of incumbent mayors.

The strong showing made by Mr Prodi’s centre-left bloc surprised Berlusconi in what was a key test for the new coalition governing Italy. While the centre-left increased its share of the vote in city contests, the lower turnout hampered the opposition. In Rome in particular, the centre-right’s vote slumped to just 9.9 per cent, though the candidate from Mr Berlusconi’s bloc polled second to incumbent mayor Walter Veltroni, who won comfortably with 61 per cent.

In Turin, incumbent Sergio Chiamparino was able to hold off a challenge from Rocco Buttiglione, the Christian Democrat who was withdrawn as Italy’s nominee for the European Commission in 2004 after his denunciation of homosexuality as a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Mr Berlusconi was able to take some comfort from the result in his native Milan, where the centre-right candidate Letizia Moratti was elected with 52 per cent of the vote, narrowly beating Bruno Ferrante of the centre-left Union bloc. The first female mayor in the city, Moratti previously served in the cabinet of Berlusconi as education minister and like him has a background as a media executive. The incumbent Gabriele Albertini was prevented from standing through term limits.

Substantial interest was also generated in the election for Sicily’s regional assembly and presidency also held in the same polls. Incumbent president Salvatore Cuffaro of the centre-right was re-elected with 53 per cent of the vote in a poll, which saw an anti-mafia candidate contest his incumbency. Rita Borsellino, who stood on behalf of the centre-left bloc, polled 42 per cent of the vote.

Borsellino is the sister of the Paolo Borsellino, an anti-mafia magistrate assassinated in 1992, and stood against Cuffaro on the basis of his on-going investigation by magistrates over his alleged links to the crime syndicate on the island. Because of the lingering memory of the assassination and the possibility of Cuffaro facing trial, the mafia became the chief issue in the campaign, away from the national elections. The Cosa Nostra organisation is said to retain close links with the Christian Democrats on the island, an alliance first forged in post-war Italy in order to stave off Communist electoral success.

The centre-left bloc has also won the mayoral contests in Savona, Ravenna, Rimini, Siena, Ancona, Barletta and Cosenza while the centre-right was successful in Varese, Lecco and Fermo.


Turin Mayor Sergio Chiamparino won re-election with more than 66 per of the vote


Local government
in Italy

Italy’s thriving system of local democracy represents something of a triumph for both federalism and localism, with its post-war republican constitution recognising its autonomy and promoting decentralisation throughout. Having set the scene in 1948, a process of decentralisation has seen new regions established and powers devolved ever since and today there are 20 regions (or regioni) with a further 8,101 communes (or communi) below this tier.

It could be said that Italy’s regions simultaneously bind and fragment the country due to inherent tensions within the system, most notably advanced by the secessionist party Lega Nord. However, Italy was one of the last states in Europe to embark upon nation-building and belatedly consolidated the various tiny states and papal entities in 1861 and its fragmented nature can be traced back throughout the ages. The newly unified Italy opted for a highly centralised system modelled on the French state, ignoring demands for federalism for fear of fragmentation. More