Three candidates for Sicily. A signal for Italy

by Giulietto Chiesa *

In Europe someone is trying to cheat voters by shrugging off Brexit and promoting a “new pact for Europe” which will include the UK (but will be led either by Germany or by a German-French alliance). In the meantime, Italian political life (or I would rather call it, “the Italian political class”) is focused on the upcoming regional elections in Sicily.

There are three protagonists and they are all very worried. Matteo Renzi will be the first to downplay a probable bad result, by saying that after all the island is not so politically important. This is a sign of discomfort that, in any case, will probably make him lose more votes. But, of course, if he loses the election in Sicily there will be trouble in Rome. The celebrated Democratic Party leader has already been defeated several times in succession: he resigned as prime minister after being defeated in a referendum to change the constitution and then after that lost the local elections a few months ago. A fourth defeat, just a few months prior to the national elections, may be the definitive one for him: a personal defeat.

Centre-right parties are frenetically looking for votes by chasing after personalities. Gianfranco Miccichè -pulled like a rabbit out of Berlusconi’s hat – is working hard to put together a winning team. He is acting like a “headhunter”, that is, offering regional seats and hoping that someone’s hunger for power will be strong enough to induce him to risk his own neck. But, just as with the Democratic Party, there is not a real policy for the island other than taking over the government at the Normans’ Palace in Palermo.

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Finally we have the Five Star Movement, led by Beppe Grillo, which is still predicting a future national government led by his party.  But he needs to prove whether the polls showing the rise of the Five Star Movement are reliable. Many people have the feeling – including voters and activists – have the feeling that the polls are not telling the truth and that they are concocted for the purpose of frightening the undecided – who are still the majority – against any break in continuity of the long-lasting Democratic Party’s power.

And so, even for Beppe Grillo, the Sicilian elections are important. A defeat in Sicily – a place that is remembered for the first M5S’s electoral victory – will be the end of Di Maio as M5S’s official  nominee for prime minister, and will also lead to a change of the whip, towards more moderate positions. Then we will see an even more visible change of stance than the current one about the unresolved – and never to be resolved – issue of migrants landing on the Italian coasts.

* Journalist, Writer and Politician. Ex-Correspondent of Unita in Moscow during Perestroika. Ex-MEP