Italy’s right eye slips into Sicilian 5-star strongholds

  • Conservatives lead in Sicilian first-past-the-post seats
  • Voters, local elected officials turn right
  • Sicily is a big beneficiary of the 5-star income support program

CATANIA, Italy, September 9 (Reuters) – Like many Sicilians, Agatino Zappala, who runs a delicatessen in the city of Catania, voted for the 5 Star Movement in Italy’s last national elections in 2018, but will switch allegiance right to vote this month.

The trend, reflected in polls, could give the conservative bloc a landslide victory on the island in the September 25 ballot and help pave the way to power across the country.

Sicily has often been an indicator of national electoral changes in Italy.

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“I backed 5 stars, but it was a lost vote,” Zappala says as he serves customers near Catania’s colorful open-air market, in the shadow of the towering Etna volcano.

The 5 Star Movement has lost most of its support since winning 32% of the national vote in 2018 on an anti-establishment ticket that challenged left-right labels and promised to shake up Italian politics, which his former constituents say he failed. TO DO.

Zappala, who has yet to decide which right-wing party he will vote for, mostly blames the 5-star for his decision to form a government in 2019 with his old enemies the center-left Democratic Party (PD), a group he deeply hates.

“For me, the PD is the worst possible ally,” he said.

CLEAN RIGHT SWEEP?

In 2018, 5-Star won all 28 single-member seats in Sicily, where an unemployment rate about twice the national average and poor public services fueled popular support for what was widely seen as a movement of protest.

This time, a conservative bloc led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is on track to win all the majority single-ballot constituencies won by 5-Star four years ago, according to research by polling firm YouTrend. .

The Italian electoral system assigns two-thirds of the seats to proportional representation and the rest to the British first-past-the-post system.

“The south, and Sicily as part of the south, can make a difference (…) and confirm the estimates of a clear centre-right majority in the next parliament,” the head of YouTrend told Reuters, Lorenzo Pregliasco.

YouTrend’s Sicily study, seen by Reuters, shows 5-star polls are between 11% and 21%, down sharply from nearly 49% in 2018.

That could still make it the largest single party on the island, but it stands alone, making it difficult to compete in single-member first-past-the-post seats where rivals have joined forces in alliances.

The right-wing bloc, made up of the League and Forza Italia as well as the Brothers of Italy, would get between 42% and 52%, having reached around 32% four years ago. The centre-left led by the PD is estimated at 20-30%.

Many single-member single-member seats in the south would be tightly contested, Pregliasco said, had the PD and 5-Star not broken their previous alliance in July, following 5-Star’s decision to withdraw support for Mario Draghi’s government. .

PROTEST AND DISILLUSION

Sara Gentile, a politics professor at the University of Catania, said the 5-star has lost its appeal for Sicilians as it has become increasingly institutional, while voters on the island tend to choose those who pretend to be new and promise to right the injustice.

“The 5-star can no longer provide guarantees to those who vote in protest…as Meloni tries to represent the people using far-right language,” she said. “There is a strong right-wing appetite here.”

Some southern politicians have also moved to the right, such as Giovanni Grasso, a 5-star candidate for mayor of Catania in 2018 and joined the Brothers of Italy last year.

“I was always on the right…it was a return to my origins,” he said, citing a lack of organization and political leadership among the reasons he left 5 stars.

Grasso hopes the right will win big in the election, but thinks the flagship 5-star “Citizens’ Income” poverty program will help his former party stay afloat in Sicily, where many are on the brink.

Around 500,000 of Sicily’s 4.8 million people receive Citizens’ Income, making it the second largest beneficiary behind the Campania region around Naples. Some 120,000 of them live in and around Catania, according to official data.

While angry Sicilians often vote in protest, many others are too resigned and disillusioned to vote, leading to traditionally high abstention rates.

Giuseppe Costanzo, who works at the fish market in central Catania, plans to stay at home on September 25, as he did in 2018.

“Left and right don’t exist anymore, it’s just a game for politicians,” he said.

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Editing by Gavin Jones and Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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