Italy’s nearly 1,000 municipalities in 7 regions and 22 million voters will participate in regional elections on Sunday.
After last year’s European election in which they received 40 percent of the vote, Matteo Renzi and his ruling center left Democratic Party (PD) will test the continuity of their power and public support.
Polls show that Matteo’s party PD is predicted to win in four regions and take 37 percent of the vote.
According to the polls, Renzi’s PD is likely to win in the central regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and Puglia. One of PD’s opposing parties, the anti-European and anti-immigrant Northern League, is expected to win in Veneto in northeastern Italy. Campania and Liguria are the regions where the rivalry is visible.
Matteo Renzi and the PD are likely to face with rivalry in the regions of Liguria, Campania and Veneto.
According to the Financial Times, the Northern region of Liguria is going to be the key test for PD to see if it can win public support or not.
In Liguria, PD’s candidate Raffaella Paita will compete with Giovanni Toti from the unified center-right coalition and with Luca Pastorino from opponents within the left-wing.
Veneto with the Northern League’s center-right Governor Luca Zaia is also an electoral region in which the center-left PD and center-right Northern League will compete.
PD will participate regional elections with candidate Vincenzo De Luca in Italy’s largest region of Campania. Critics said that De Luca’s candidacy will decrease the PD’s vote in the elections due to his corruption and fraud case last year.
On Friday, the anti-mafia committee of the Italian parliament announced that there are 17 candidates who can be linked to organised crime. The committee said that 12 of these “unpresentable” candidates were from the Campania region, and De Luca is one of them.
De Luca was found guilty of corruption and fraud charges relating to a local incinerator project. The factor that will increase PD’s votes is not De Luca’s corruption case, but Renzi’s support for De Luca.
Matteo Renzi has said that he believes the anti-mafia committee’s decision is“revenge” of the old guard of the Democratic Party against his reform movements.
“You can criticise De Luca for being very decisive, but no one who is intellectually honest can deny that he was an extraordinary mayor: Salerno is cleaner and more beautiful, and the construction sites are running again,” Renzi added.
Renzi’s PD and its opponents
Several conflicting right wing parties will participate in the elections. Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia Party will compete with Matteo Salvini’s anti-European and anti-immigrant Northern League Party.
According to the polls, Salvini’s Northern League will overtake Forza Italia on Sunday.
Salvini and his party have pursued an anti-immigrant political attitude to win votes. As part of this stance, Salvini backed a mayor’s plan to cancel private homes and shelters for migrants.
Salvini said that providing shelters and jobs for migrants should not be Italy’s priority, drawing attention to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s stance on refusing the EU’s proposed policy of an immigrant quota.
"There are no controls, no guarantees, not even for health. ... It is a problem of safety and cohabitation. There are 4 million Italians without work, and millions more living under the poverty level. I don't think we can give housing to half the world," Salvini said.
"We don't know who we are putting next-door," he added.
Another rival party, the Italian 5-Star Movement (M5S), is also hopeful about increasing their share of the vote in the elections, mentioning the successes of Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos party in the elections.
M5S is an anti-European, anti-establishment and environmentalist political party started by comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo in 2009. As the second largest party in Italy, polls show that the M5S is likely to receive 20 percent of the vote.
The economy and the elections
According to political analysts, another important issue Italy’s election is the state of the economy in the country.
Italy’s GDP increased from 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2015, moving the country away from a possible recession.
The government has been dealing with protests over the Milan Expo trade fair as well as a court ruling on pension cuts.
On May, demonstrators protested against the government, claiming that Italian authorities are wasting public funds by hosting the Expo and dragging the country into a deeper economic crisis. Thousands of police who were deployed to the area responded with tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd.
In response to the criticism Renzi claimed that the Expo would aid Italy in gaining confidence and recovering after years of recession.
Matteo Renzi has been Secretary of the Democratic Party since 2013 and Italian Prime Minister since 2014.
When he was 39, Renzi became the youngest prime minister of Italy. He was also the first person who was elected as prime minister while holding office as mayor.