Matteo Salvini has failed to take the Italian ‘red wall’ region of Emilia-Romagna. The Government in Rome (a coalition of the Five Star Movement and the centre-Left) won’t be falling just yet.
However, that’s not the only story from the regional elections over the weekend. In the long-term, what probably matters more is the continued decline of Five Star and the continued rise of another party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), led by Giorgia Meloni.
To become Prime Minister, Salvini needs a reliable coalition partner. His own party, the League, is polling first nationally with about a third of the vote. But that appears to be the ceiling on its support. Rooted in a Northern separatist movement there are limits on how much progress it can make in the rest of the country.
This is where the Brothers of Italy come in. Like the League it is a party of the populist Right, but without the regionalist baggage. In both Emilia-Romagna and Calabria (the other regional election over the weekend) its vote more than quadrupled — it’s best ever electoral performance. Nationally, the polls put support for the Brothers at over 10% and rising.
So, here’s what it all means. In 2018 the Italians elected a coalition of a broadly centrist party (Five Star) and a hard Right party (the League). This was a challenge for the Euro-establishment, but the League was the junior partner and was swiftly ejected from government.
On current trends, however, the next general election is set to produce a much more disruptive result — a coalition dominated by two hard Right parties. Matteo Salvini would be Prime Minister and very firmly in control.