Radical left and anti -austerity candidates won Monday in Genoa, Palermo and Parma in the second round run off mayoral elections in Italy.
In Genoa, Marco Doria, a left academic and son of veteran communist Giorgio Doria, the ‘red marquis’, was victorious.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Doria joined the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in his youth, and kept his allegiance to marxism by joining Communist Refoundation Party that was established when the once mighty PCI dissolved itself in 1989-1991. In 2009 he became associated with the Left Ecology Freedom party of Nichi Vendola, governor of Puglia and also a long time communist who left Communist Refoundation to form this new radical green-left party in 2009.
Like Vendola, who in the southern Italian region stood against the main opposition Democrats’ candidate in centre-left primaries and won – and then went on to become governor (twice), Doria is a radical outsider within the centre-left.
In Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, founder of the anti-mafia La Rete movement that defeated the corrupt Christian Democrats in the island of Sicily in the early 1990s, has made a come back after 11 years out of office. Standing as an independent candidate, he was backed by his party, Antonio di Pietro’s Italy of Values – whose handful of MPs have been lone voices of criticism in parliament of Monti’s austerity and neo-liberal reformist zeal – the communists and greens. The 65 year old defeated the thirty-something Fabrizio Ferrandelli, backed by the Democrats.
Before standing himself, Orlando had supported the mayoral bid by Rita Borsellino – sister of late judge Paolo Borsellino, killed by a Mafia car bomb in 1992 – in a controversial centre-left primary election won by Fabrizio Ferrandelli. Ferrandelli was close to forces within the Democrats seeking to continue an alliance with the right-wing Raffaele Lombardo of the Movement for the Autonomies, a split from the Christian Democrats.
As has been already widely reported elsewhere, the upstart Five Star party of comedian/blogger Beppe Grillo won the mayoral election in Parma. Grillo’s political colours are fuzzy and he’s been accused of being ‘apolitical’. But he was a highly effective campaigner against Silvio Berlusconi and since the billionaire was replaced by technocrat Mari Monti in November he’s been outspoken in his criticism of the brutal austerity programme that the former European Commissioner has unleashed on the country.
The Five Star’s Federico Pizzarotti defeated a moderate candidate from the centre-left Democratic party, taking 60% of the vote in a head-to-head runoff. Grillo candidates also won three other mayoral contests in smaller towns across Italy. Pizzarotti takes the helm in Parma from a mayor backed by Berlusconi’s Freedom People party who stepped down in September after a scandal over town hall finances.
The elections marked a massive defeat for the xenophobic Northern League – which has sought to distance itself from Monti austerity policies but is mired in scandal – and Berlusconi’s right-wing PDL party.
Overall, the Democrats did well, despite the support they have been offering Monti.
But the results represent a big warning for the Democrats’ modernising leadership which has been shifting right-wards ever since they jettisoned marxism in favour of political opportunism and the mythical centre ground after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Genoa and Palermo, after the victory of radical leftists in mayoral elections in Naples and Milan in May last year, appear to show that where genuine left wing candidates stand, the Left makes gains. Where voters are presented with one of the party hierarchy’s moderates, voters go for the likes of populist, anti-establishment characters like Grillo.
The worry for premier Monti, meanwhile, is the huge vote for anti-austerity candidates, and the scalps it is claiming on the Right. The PDL party is showing signs of great weariness with the unelected champion of austerity.
Full results from La Repubblica newspaper.