The leader of Italy’s opposition has quit after a surprise election defeat in Sardinia.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative party beat the centre-left candidate backed by Democratic Party leader Walter Veltroni. The result triggered a leadership crisis, with party officials in Rome initially dismissing Veltroni’s offer to step down but he has confirmed his resignation. The centre right’s candidate won 53 percent of the vote compared with 43 percent for the loser, the now former governor of Sardinia, Renato Soru. He said: “Only by winning this election could we really help to improve our party. Anyway, I think the Democratic Party does have a big future going forward.” Victory for Ugo Cappellaci, the son of Berlusconi’s tax advisor, is a massive blow for the centre-left in Italian politics. Most political observers were convinced the global economic downturn, which is putting Italy on course for its longest recession since the Second World War, would help the left loosen Berlusconi’s grip on power. Soru, the founder of Telecoms giant Tiscali and the owner of left-leaning newspaper L’Unita, had been tipped as a future leader of the centre-left opposition. His humbling at the hands of the electorate appears to have put the Democratic Party into what analysts are now calling a “downward spiral.”