First Stalingrad, then Berlin

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

 Rome, 22 May 2012

Having just rocked up here amid the grey rains of a late Roman spring, we find that the political mood has lightened considerably, despite the recent earthquake in Emilia Romagna and the mysterious murder of a teenage girl in Brindisi by a killer who exploded three gas cylinders outside the entrance to a school.

That is because of the landslide against the right which took place yesterday 21 May 2012 in a series of municipal elections.

Until yesterday the centre-right controlled 98 of Italian local authorities with a population of more than 15 000 inhabitants. The centre-left controlled 56.

Yesterday the tables were reversed.

The centre-left now controls 95 towns and cities, the centre-right 34.

The big losers were Berlusconi’s party, Il Pop0lo della Libertà, and that of his ally, La Lega Nord, whose founder Umberto Bossi has been caught up in a financial scandal.

The centre-left Partito Democratico of Pierluigi Bersani is now the biggest party in the Centro-Nord of Italy.

Cities gained by the centre-left included Genova, where Marco Doria, scion of an ancient Genoese family,  was elected mayor, as well as Monza, Alessandria, Como and Lucca.

However, smaller parties also did well.

Veteran anti-mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando scored a landslide victory for Lista civica over the centre-right candidate. He now becomes mayor of Palermo for the fourth time. Lista civica also beat the centre-right in Agrigento, another major Sicilian city.

The joker in the pack of election results, however, was the breakthrough by the anti-party “Five Stars’ Movement” which defeated the centre-left to win the important food production centre of Parma. This anti-establishment group was founded by the maverick comedian, actor and blogger Beppe Grillo, who wants a clean-up of Italian politics. Winning the mayorality of Parma for his candidate Federico Pizzarotti was his first major victory. Grillo’s comment, after the results were announced, was in character: “After Stalingrad, it’s Berlin. We’re going to take over the country.”

It would be wrong to read too much into the results of partial local elections in one European country. Moreover, abstentions were at an all-time high, with only 51.4 % of those eligible taking part in the vote.

However, recent political developments elsewhere in Europe have given grounds for hope. France has moved from right to centre-left with the the election as President of François Hollande.  The hardish left Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras is riding high in the polls in Greece and may well become the leading party after the re-run of the country’s parliamentary elections on 17 June 2012. Angela Merkel’s rightwing Christian Democrats were thrashed by the opposition Social Democrats in the recent regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen, the most populous Land in the German Federation.

These may be mere straws in the wind. But they could also be the harbinger of a deeper shift in political mood in a Europe which has long been a virtual monopoly of the right.


  You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

 1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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