Berlusconi ally wins key Sicily vote
A candidate allied to scandal-ridden ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi claimed victory in Sicily’s regional elections, adding momentum to the 81-year-old tycoon’s political comeback ahead of next year’s general election.
“Sicily, just as I asked, has chosen the path of real, serious, constructive change, based on honesty, competence and experience,” he posted on Facebook.
Sicily’s problems reflect those of the rest of Italy: high unemployment, a debt mountain and feeble economic growth.
The large numbers of migrants coming from Libya, many of whom arrive in Sicily after being rescued in the Mediterranean, were also a key issue.
Nello Musumeci, the candidate for a coalition of centre-right parties for governor of Sicily, won with 39 per cent of the vote, while the for’s Giancarlo Cancelleri, won almost 35 per cent, becoming the largest single party.
Former prime minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party was part of a coalition that lost control of the southern island.
Renzi’s candidate, Fabrizio Micari, received only 18.5 per cent of the vote, and critics accused Renzi of splitting the Democrats by backing Micari.
A majority of voters failed to take part in Monday’s election.
Berlusconi managed to patch up differences between several antagonistic right-of-centre parties into a winning coalition, in the hope he can do the same in the general election.
Polling suggests the centre right will win next year’s national vote but a recent change to the electoral law is likely to stop any one coalition winning an absolute majority of seats, creating unwieldy deals and potential deadlock.
The new coalition brings together Berlusconi’s Forza Italia with the right-wing Northern League and Brothers of Italy.
Berlusconi has shown remarkable endurance, despite open heart surgery last year.
He is barred from running because of a 2013 conviction for tax fraud but is seeking to overturn the ban that bars him from public office ahead of the spring 2018 vote and the European Court of Human Rights is set to review his case later this year.
“He’s risen from the ashes, he’s back in the saddle,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome. “The man is a genius. Despite everything, he’s back.”
“There’s an old adage about politics in Italy – whoever wins in Sicily and Lombardy [in the north] will win in the rest of the country,” said Paolo Romani, an MP in Berlusconi’s party.
Sicily is noticeably poorer than the rest of Italy. Picture credit: Pixabay