Italy’s centre-left has secured a series of key wins in local election runoffs, including the traditionally conservative city of Verona, where a former international footballer has been elected mayor.
The ballot was the last major test of the strength of political parties before general elections next year.
Results on Monday showed a centre-left coalition led by Democratic party candidates won in seven out of 13 provincial capitals, making inroads in some of the far-right League’s northern strongholds.
The most significant gain was in Verona, where Damiano Tommasi, who played for AS Roma and Italy’s national side in the 1990s and early 2000s, snatched victory over the incumbent mayor, Federico Sboarina, who was a member of the League before switching to the rival Brothers of Italy.
Verona was declared a an anti-abortion city under Sboarina’s five-year leadership, with measures introduced to fund anti-choice groups. The city, often considered a laboratory for the extreme right, also hosted a conference of the World Congress of Families (WCF), a US Christian-right supported global coalition, in 2019.
“It’s a historic result for Verona,” said Tommasi, who has pledged to celebrate by cycling the Stelvio Pass, the second-highest paved mountain pass in Europe. “We put ourselves in the game and we won, demonstrating that politics can be done without insults or responding to provocations. Our political proposal has turned the page for Verona.”
Another surprise win for the left came in Monza, the home of the former prime minister and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi. A candidate for the coalition also prevailed in the Piedmont city of Alessandria, taking it from the League, as well as Parma, Cuneo and Catanzaro.
“This result strengthens us in view of the future, in building a centre-left bloc that will be a winner also on a national level, at next year’s political elections,” said the Democratic party leader, Enrico Letta.
Divisions within the rightwing coalition, comprising the League, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia, were mostly blamed for the alliance’s losses in the runoffs, especially in Verona, where Sboarina was backed by Brothers of Italy and the League but not Forza Italia.
The growing influence of the Brothers of Italy leader, Giorgia Meloni, and eroding popularity of her League counterpart, Matteo Salvini, are also destabilising the once close-knit group. Brothers of Italy currently polls as the biggest party in Italy, ahead of the Democratic party. Mayoral candidates for Brothers of Italy seized victory in Palermo from the left in the first round of the local elections two weeks ago, and in L’Aquila on Sunday.
However, the party would have to unite with the League and Forza Italia in order to win general elections.
“I’ll ask for a meeting with Salvini and Berlusconi, we must remember that our opponent is the left,” Meloni said.