Europe Elections in Sicily
Tip of the boot
Sicily’s vote and Italy’s future
Were Sicily an independent state, its 5m people would give it a bigger population than eight countries in the EU. The island has always mattered, seldom more than now. On October 28th its voters will choose a new regional governor and parliament in the first big test of public opinion in the run-up to Italy’s next general election, probably in April. How Sicilians vote may answer some of the many questions that hang over the national vote.
It could make or break the chances of Angelino Alfano, the secretary of Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom movement (PdL). On October 24th Mr Berlusconi confirmed he would not run again for prime minister and announced a primary election to choose the PdL’s candidate on December 16th. Mr Alfano, a Sicilian whom the media tycoon had named as his successor, is a front-runner. But if his native island, where Mr Berlusconi won all 61 seats in Italy’s 2001 general election, veers left, it will blight his chances.
Plagued by splits and regional graft scandals, the PdL is bleeding support. The last opinion poll gave its candidate for governor, Sebastiano (“Nello”) Musumeci, only a slim lead over Rosario Crocetta of the Democratic Party (PD), Italy’s biggest left-wing group.
Mr Crocetta is yoked to the conservative Christian Democrat Union of the Centre (UDC). But the PD plans to fight the general election alongside the more radical Left, Ecology and Freedom (SEL) movement. Victory for the PD-UDC ticket in Sicily could prompt a rethink, especially if the PD’s leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, loses his job to a more centrist rival, Matteo Renzi, in a primary election in November. This choice of partners could affect the fate of Mario Monti, the non-party technocrat who has been Italy’s prime minister since last November. He would find it a lot more comfortable to belong to a PD-UDC coalition than to a PD-SEL one.
The joker—literally as well as politically—is Beppe Grillo, the comedian whose vitriolically anti-establishment Five Star Movement is again surging on a wave of indignation at the recent corruption scandals. After swimming to Sicily from the mainland, he has conducted a vigorous campaign for his party’s candidate, filling town squares, and rattling mainstream commentators and politicians with his raucous populism.