No-so-sweet home da The Economist 31.05.2011

come promesso ieri, pubblico l'articolo di economist sulle elezioni municipali italiane. Italy's municipal elections Not-so-sweet home May 31st 2011, 12:49 by J.H. | MILAN .. ON MAY 30th Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative alliance took a fearful thrashing in the run-offs for mayor in some 90 Italian towns and cities. In Milan, Italy’s business capital, his party’s candidate came in more than 10 percentage points behind a local lawyer, Giuliano Pisapia, who was relatively unknown at the start of the contest. Once the result was known, tens of thousands of Mr Pisapia’s supporters, sporting t-shirts and balloons in his campaign’s orange theme colour, filled the city’s cathedral square to celebrate the end of almost 20 years of right-wing rule. The opposition to Mr Berlusconi did even better in Naples, where Luigi De Magistris, a former prosecutor representing the left, took more than 65% of the ballot. Were these losses merely a predictable mid-term setback? Or do they spell the beginning of the end of Mr Berlusconi’s long career in Italian politics? The prime minister insisted that his government, which has repeatedly slashed public spending to contain its deficit, would go on as before. Several of his lieutenants argued it was only to be expected that sooner or later it would fall victim to protest votes. And Mr Pisapia is an archetypal protest candidate. He was not the choice of Italy’s biggest opposition group, the centre-left Democratic Party. Instead, he ran for the smaller and more radical Left, Ecology and Freedom movement. Nevertheless, the vote in Milan should worry Mr Berlusconi for at least three reasons. First, the city has historically been a trend-setter. All sorts of movements—including Berlusconi-ism itself—have taken root in Milan before spreading to the rest of Italy. A further disturbing feature of the defeat for the prime minister is that it was so evidently personal. Milan is his home city. By putting himself on the slate of Letizia Moratti, a former minister, and saying the election was really a national one, he turned it into a de facto vote of confidence. The country’s billionaire leader lost not only Milan but also Arcore, the nearby town where he has his main private residence. Perhaps the best reason for Mr Berlusconi to lose sleep, though, is not his own party’s wretched showing, but that of its coalition partner, the Northern League. Umberto Bossi’s eccentric movement, which combines regionalism with hefty doses of populism and Islamophobia, is vital to the government’s survival. Its poor showing in the first-round ballot persuaded many in his party that the time had come for it to sever its links with Mr Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) movement. The outcome of the second-round ballots, in one of which the League lost control of the north-eastern city of Novara, is likely to make that view more widespread. So far, Mr Bossi has given no hint of withdrawing his support from the government. But he may now ask a higher price for it.

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