Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has plenty to celebrate – having made strong gains in his country’s regional elections.
The most spectacular win came in Lazio after a close battle between the centre-right’s Renate Polverini and former EU commissioner Emma Bonino.
With these wins, Berlusconi has avoided the heavy mid-term defeat suffered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month. Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party doubled its tally to four regions, while his Northern League coalition allies took two.
If Berlusconi is the pilot steering this election success, then the Northern League is his driving force. The party got more than twelve percent of the vote – double its total in 2005 and significantly more than the general election in 2008.
Party leader Umberto Bossi is likely to present a wish-list which Berlusconi will find hard not to grant – beginning with fiscal reform.
Turnout for the vote, however, was low, with just 64 percent of voters going to the polls. That’s compared to 72 percent in the last regional vote in 2005.
Analysts say the relatively high level of abstention suggests disaffection with politics in Italy in general.