ROME — After half a century of left-wing rule, the central Italian region of Umbria voted for a regional government spearheaded by Matteo Salvini’s far-right League.
According to initial projections after Sunday’s vote, Donatella Tesei of the League, backed by the far-right Brothers of Italy and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is expected to have won around 60 percent of the vote. Vincenzo Bianconi, who was supported by the two parties that govern on the national level, the Democratic Party (PD) and the 5Star Movement, won just under 35 percent.
As the scale of the League’s victory became apparent, Salvini told reporters: “We are writing history here tonight.”
The result is a major blow to the PD-5Stars government, whose formation two months ago removed the League from power. The Umbria election was the first time the two new allies ever jointly backed a candidate and the first time their tie-up was tested through a vote.
Although Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday claimed “this is not a vote on my government,” the governing parties’ disastrous defeat is certain to have major repercussions for the already-fragile coalition. While Umbria only has 700,000 voters, it has long been one of Italy’s left-wing strongholds and had only ever been governed by Communists, the left or the center left.
Salvini will use the League’s landslide victory to demonstrate he still has the backing of most Italians despite having pulled the plug on the government over the summer and having been forced into opposition.
The next big test for the PD-5Stars alliance will come in another regional vote, in Emilia-Romagna, in January.
While analysts believe the Umbrian defeat won’t bring down the government, losing the region that contains Bologna — Italy’s most symbolic left-wing stronghold — could destroy the PD-5Stars alliance.