ROME: Italy held a primary runoff on Sunday for a centre-left candidate to run as premier in next year’s election — an important ballot given that Italy’s centre-right camp is in utter disarray over whether former premier Silvio Berlusconi will run again.
Sunday’s runoff pitted veteran Pier Luigi Bersani, 61, against the 37-year-old mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi, who campaigned on an Obama-style “Let’s change Italy now” mantra and attracted many disgruntled Italians back to politics with his call to “scrap” the old political order.
Nearly all polls show Bersani, leader of the main centre-left Democratic Party, winning the primary, since he won the first round of balloting Nov.25 with 44.9 per cent of the vote to Renzi’s 35.5 per cent.
Even before the polls closed on Sunday, analysts were already discussing the potential that Bersani could well be Italy’s next premier.
Nevertheless, Renzi will have won a victory of sorts in knowing that he has forever changed the Italian left.
Renzi’s perceived conservative leanings, while alienating the left’s hard-core communists, attracted Italians young and old who have grown disenchanted with Italy’s political class after a spate of corruption and party finance scandals, analyst Luca Ricolfi wrote in the La Stampa newspaper.
“Even if he loses, as I think he will, he had an important renovation function within the party,” Rome resident Pietro Marucci said Sunday as he voted for Renzi.
Renzi’s style — moving around Italy in a motor home to meet crowds, addressing supporters in just a shirt and tie, no jacket — attracted quite a following and drew inevitable comparisons to Barack Obama.
But some analysts said he was simply not yet ready for the job of running Italy, and that his relaxed, fresh approach to politics isn’t what Italy needs as it navigates through a grinding recession, near-record high unemployment and tries to tackle its enormous public debt of €2 trillion ($2.5 trillion).
“Italy certainly badly needs new faces, fresh faces,” commentator Massimo Franco said. “But I think that between Renzi and Bersani, the big problem is also experience.”