Rome | Italians are called on Sunday to challenge the progression of the coronavirus and go and vote, especially in the regional elections in Tuscany, a left-wing bastion for half a century that the far right has dreamed of seizing.
Seven regions – more than 20 million inhabitants – must elect their presidents. In three of them, a possible victory for the right would be a rebuff for the government of Giuseppe Conte, a coalition formed a year ago between the 5 Star Movement (M5S) and the Democratic Party (PD, center-left).
All Italians must also vote on a national referendum on reducing the number of parliamentarians, an M5S electoral promise which should materialize. The number of elected officials would drop from 945 to 600. Today, Italy has the second largest parliament in Europe, behind the United Kingdom (around 1,400), and ahead of France (925).
For this very first ballot organized since the pandemic, the reluctance of the oldest voters will certainly weigh on the crowd in the polling stations, open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. local, but also Monday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In a school in the north of Rome, AFP-TV was able to observe a steady flow of voters during the first hour of the polls, arousing the surprise and optimism of the president of the polling station.
Only 1,820 voters, confined to their homes because of the coronavirus, asked to vote remotely. This is the case of the former head of the Italian government Silvio Berlusconi, diagnosed with the virus but released from the hospital a few days ago.
In Rome, the Spallanzani hospital, a flagship healthcare facility against the virus, will set up a polling station within its walls. The facility currently has 93 patients positive for COVID-19, including ten in intensive care.
Massive withdrawal of scrutineers
But fear has already overtaken tellers and polling station presidents, who have massively withdrawn across the country. The city of Milan launched an SOS on Saturday via social networks, to replace at short notice 100 presidents of polling stations.
Source of concern: voters will have to lower their masks to identify themselves before going to cast their ballot.
On Saturday, the country recorded 1,628 new cases and 24 deaths in 24 hours. Contagion is currently transmitted in two thirds of cases within families, from the youngest to the oldest, pushing up the average age.
For Massimo Galli, infectious disease specialist in Milan, these elections several times postponed are quite simply “madness”.
The right-wing coalition made up of Matteo Salvini's League (far right), Fratelli d'Italia (FDI), Giorgia Meloni (far right) and Forza Italia (right) by Silvio Berlusconi, presents itself united in all regions.
The government coalition – PD and M5S – advances on the other hand divided, except in Liguria (north-west) where a common candidate has been found.
The 5 Star Movement, an ex-anti-system formation in power in Italy for two years including one year with Matteo Salvini, had given the green light for the first time in mid-August to forge electoral alliances with traditional parties. Seeming to want to strengthen its strategy of common front with the Italian left.
All observers will have their eyes riveted on Tuscany, a “red” stronghold since the post-war period, where polls show candidates from left and right in a pocket handkerchief.
“The election in Tuscany will be decisive for Matteo Salvini”, whose popularity has crumbled during the pandemic, underlines political analyst Barbara Fiammeri, of the newspaper “Sole 24 Ore”.
Friday, the national tenors of the right and the extreme right had also met in Florence.
Florence is precisely the stronghold of Matteo Renzi, the former leader (Democratic Party) of the government, who is trying to revive himself through his new formation, Italia Viva.
The future of the leader of the Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, could also be played in this region. That of the leader of the M5S, Luigi di Maio, depends more on a “yes” to the referendum, his hobbyhorse.
The other two test regions are Campania (Naples) where the outgoing president (PD) is nevertheless given the winner, and Puglia where the current president (PD) is neck and neck with the candidate from the right.
In Veneto, the popular president of La Ligue seems all the more unwavering as his left-wing competitor, positive for the coronavirus, has ended his virtual campaign from the hospital.
The result, known Monday evening, is not likely to bring down the government which has “no intention of organizing legislative elections” with an uncertain outcome, analyzes Franco Pavoncello, professor of political science at the American University John Cabot de Rome.
The time also calls for a certain stability: Italy must present in Brussels its national recovery plan in the face of the epidemic, to obtain 208.6 billion in grants and loans.