How the Left Lost the Italian Election
Enrico Letta fought on Giorgia Meloni’s terms.
The votes have been counted in 61,400 polling stations and they confirm what the exit poll told us on Sunday night: Italy has lurched to the right.
But not by much.
The four right-parties have 44 percent of the votes. That’s up from 37 percent in 2018, but closer to their historical average.
The right has become more right-wing. The Brothers of Italy, whose support went up from 4 to 26 percent, didn’t win many new voters; they cannibalized Matteo Salvini’s (formerly Northern) League, which has been reduced to a party of Po Valley homeowners and businessmen who despise the Italy south of the Arno River. Giorgia Meloni would lead Italy’s first right-wing government since Silvio Berlusconi stepped down in 2011, and the most right-wing government since the end of World War II.
The south, including Sardinia and Sicily, has about a third of the Italian population but not even one-fifth of its industrial base. It stuck with the Five Star Movement, the party of the left-behind Italy.
Ideologically and geographically, the social democrats are fighting a war on two fronts from their strongholds in Emilia-Romagna (the region around Bologna) and Tuscany (Florence). They did reasonably well in neighboring Liguria, Marche and Umbria, but there was a time when the left could count on working-class support from the south of the peninsula.
The defection of former party leader Matteo Renzi, and his union with the once-marginal liberals, which got 8 percent, also weakened the Democrats from within.
At least the left didn’t shrink
The combined left-wing vote — 25 percent — was the same as in 2018, but that was a setback from 2013, when the left tied with the right at 30 percent; 2008, when it placed behind Berlusconi with an even stronger 38 percent; and 2006, when Romano Prodi got almost 50 percent of the votes.
Back then, the left was united. One of the reasons for the 2018 setback was that the self-proclaimed Blairite Renzi alienated working-class and old-fashioned left-wing voters, who split between the populist Five Star Movement and the purist Free and Equal, now the Greens and Left Alliance. That division hasn’t healed.
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