Bersani Wins Italian Left Primary Race
words by Carol King
Pier Luigi Bersani won the centre-left run off and will lead the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party, PD) into the general election in Italy in early 2013.
The 61-year-old veteran leader of the PD fought off a leadership challenge by the 37-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi. The primary run off was important because the PD is ahead in the polls and the general election will choose a successor to Prime Minister Mario Monti’s technocratic government.
With 18.7% of polling stations counted, Bersani had 61.5% of the vote while Renzi had 38.5%. Just over 15 minutes after polling stations closed and the first exit-poll data was released, Renzi admitted defeat. The mayor of Florence wrote on his Twitter account: “It was right to try, it was nice to do it together. Heartfelt thanks to all.”
Only 90 minutes after polling stations closed, Renzi made a concession speech noted for its grace in defeat: “I’ve just called Bersani to congratulate him. He won, we didn’t: congratulations and good work.”
Bersani has said he will adhere to the tough budget commitments made by Monti to Italy’s European partners. However, Bersani has said he wants to soften the impact of various measures by introducing more flexibility for workers and by championing the poor, putting more emphasis on economic growth.
Bersani’s win was expected: most market-research polls conducted before the run off indicated he would win by a healthy margin. He won the first round of balloting, which took place on the 25th of November, with 44.9% of the vote. Because Bersani did not achieve an absolute majority, he was forced into a run off with Renzi, who gained 35.5% percent of the vote.
Voter turnout was down approximately 6.5% compared to the first round and 150,000 fewer people voted. The PD press office said: “At 5.50pm 2,300,000 voters had voted. At the same time on Sunday 25 November, 2,450,000 voters had voted.”
Analysts and market-research polls suggest that the centre-left has a good chance of winning the general election, particularly at a time when the centre-right is in disarray. A poll conducted by the SWG polling institute for TV station Rai 3 on 30 November saw the PD in the lead with 30% of the vote if the general election were held now – up from 26.7% a week earlier.
Only last week, former premier Silvio Berlusconi indicated he was thinking about returning to politics and there is speculation he will run for a fourth term in office despite the fact he keeps changing his mind. Berlusconi has suggested that he will break away from the Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom, PdL) political party he founded to start a new party, which could possibly be a re-launch of the Forza Italia party that brought him to political power for the first time in 1994. His flip-flopping has disrupted the PdL’s plans for a primary.