The center-left wins in Rome, elsewhere in a blow to the Italian right

ROME (AP) – Italian center-left forces scored big successes in Rome, Turin and several other municipal elections on Monday, inflicting embarrassing defeats on anti-migrant and far-right parties who hope to seize the post of Italian Prime Minister in the next national elections.

Roberto Gualtieri of the Italian Democratic Party defeated a challenger who had been selected by the Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist roots, to win Rome’s town hall, garnering around 60% of the vote, with almost all of the votes. ballots counted.

Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta has predicted that center-left victories over right-wing alliances will dampen any pressure from conservative forces, including the anti-migrant League party, to hold early national elections. This improves Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s chances of remaining in office until Parliament’s term expires in 2023.

Letta also interpreted the winning alliances entrenched by the Democratic Party as a resounding assertion of Draghi’s harsh anti-pandemic policies. These include a recently implemented Green Pass decree that requires workers to be vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19, or tested negative for the virus to enter their workplace. The rule sparked protests, including violence, mostly from right-wing opponents.

“We (center-left) were on the side of expanding the Green Pass, on the side of the vast majority of Italians who want to work and want the country to be revived” coming out of the pandemic, Letta told reporters.

The only notable defeat for the center-left came in Trieste, where center-right mayor Roberto Dipiazza won a new term with 51.5% of the vote. Many angry port workers in this northeastern city have opposed the Green Pass rule. On Monday, riot police repeatedly used water cannons in an attempt to break up the protest, but protesters still clashed with officers in the evening.

In national opinion polls in recent months Matteo Salvini of the League and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy were neck and neck in terms of popularity. Meloni, whose far-right party is the main opposition party in parliament, has fiercely opposed the Green Pass requirement in the workplace. Salvini, whose League is a member of the Draghi coalition, had sought unsuccessfully to convince Draghi to relax the rule by making COVID-19 testing free for workers who oppose vaccination.

“It had seemed inevitable” that for the right “the only question was who would be the next prime minister, Salvini or Meloni,” said Letta, but added that the victories of the center-left mayor were revealed ” more beautiful than all expectations “.

In a troubled Rome, Gualtieri defeated Enrico Michetti, a novice politician handpicked by Meloni, who cited the low turnout of 40% to diminish the Democratic candidate’s victory.

“When the mayor of Rome is elected by 24% of those entitled to vote (…) there is a crisis of democracy,” said Meloni.

Gualtieri faces a Herculean task of cleaning up a town where garbage and recycling collection is often inadequate, public buses have caught fire, and broken elevators have taken key metro stations out of service.

But “this city can be reborn”, he insisted.

Meloni conceded that “the center-right emerges defeated from these municipal elections”.

But she argued that it was the populist 5-Star who had suffered the real “debacle”, which recalibrated Italy’s national policy into a center-right versus center-left issue. success in 2018 saw them become the biggest party in parliament and the kingmaker in deciding who became prime minister.

The current 5-star mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, was eliminated in the first round and the 5-star mayor of Turin had refused to run for another term.

Salvini’s north-based right-wing party suffered stinging setbacks in the mayoral race, including a resounding first-round defeat for its candidate in Milan, the financial capital of Italy, which re-elected its mayor center-left.

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