PREVIEW: Italy's Regional Elections Can Bring New Gains To Right Forces, Test Acting Gov't

GENOA (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 20th September, 2020) ENOA, September 20 (Sputnik), Anastasia Levchenko - Elections in several Italian regions on Sunday and Monday are going to be the test for rising support for the right-wing parties, which can even pull out a victory from the left forces in some of their traditional strongholds, as well as for the viability of the ruling coalition between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD).

Tuscany, Campania, Liguria, Marche, Apulia, Veneto and Valle d'Aosta will hold regional elections from September 20-21, which will be the first vote after the coronavirus emergency in the country. The polls will coincide with the nationwide constitutional referendum on the reduction in the number of parliamentarians, where Italians will have to choose whether they agree to cut the number of deputies from 630 to 400 and the number of senators from 315 to 200.

Being the first vote after the COVID-19 outbreak, these elections are widely expected to reflect the level of the population's content with the regional governments' actions during the emergency. Healthcare management is a responsibility of regional authorities in Italy, which is why the sanitary system's preparedness and local politicians' response to the pandemic are top issues on the agenda of electoral campaigns in all territories.

Many criticize the governments for the very decision to hold the regional elections at the times when the risk of the contagion is not over yet. Unsurprisingly, experts predict a low turnout.

Another issue high on the agenda in the run-up to the elections is economic recovery. As one of the countries that were hit hardest by the coronavirus in Europe, Italy was pushing heavily for the need to adopt an EU recovery package in July. Now waiting for the Italian share of the Recovery Fund, candidates for the regional presidency are trying to come up with projects that would allow them if they are victorious to receive financing from it.

The tightest and the most-watched race in these elections is going to unfold in Tuscany, a left-wing bastion for over 50 years. Now, however, a candidate from the right-wing Lega party, Susanna Ceccardi, seems to outshine PD candidate Eugenio Giani. The latest Winpoll-Cise opinion poll from September 1 showed the two running neck and neck Giani 43 percent and Ceccardi 42.5 percent. If the region falls to the right, it will be a major victory for Matteo Salvini's Lega.

The other two potential new gains for the right in these elections are Marche and Apulia. Marche is also considered to be part of the so-called Red Belt along with Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Umbria and has been ruled by the left party in the last 25 years. Now Francesco Acquaroli, a candidate from the far-right Brothers of Italy, which runs in coalition with Lega and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, is likely to win opinion polls gave him up to 15-percent lead.

The vote is expected to be much closer in Apulia, where incumbent Michele Emiliano, former PD and now an independent, is competing with another Brothers of Italy candidate, Raffaele Fitto. Winpoll on September 3 predicted 39.6 percent to Fitto and 38.2 percent to Emiliano.

As for the rest of the regions, results there are rather predictable. Right-wing Lega is certain to maintain its hold of Liguria incumbent President Giovanni Toti and Veneto current President Luca Zaia is projected to win with over 70 percent given the population's content with the way he the managed coronavirus pandemic, and left-wing PD - to keep Campania.

The small region of Valle d'Aosta has its own party system and opinion polls have not been available for it.

CONSEQUENCES FOR GOVERNING COALITION

Both the regional elections and the referendum vote will test the PD-M5S coalition's resilience. If Matteo Salvini's Lega wins in "the red bastions" Tuscany, Marche and Apulia it will be a blow to the government, which was formed after the previous coalition with Lega collapsed and two other parties allied in order to prevent Salvini from entering the new one.

Moreover, both M5S and PD have supported the YES option in the referendum for M5S it was one of the pillars of its program, while PD has remained more neutral. If the NO side wins, the two parties will have even fewer points in common.