An attempt by Italy's nationalist opposition leader Matteo Salvini to destabilise the government by forcing the left out of power in a key regional election appeared to have failed early on Monday.
The centre-left Democratic Party was leading with 51,36% of the votes in Emilia-Romagna, against 43,73% for the candidate of Salvini’s League, according to projections made at 2 a.m. local time.
Salvini had been hoping for more than a symbolic victory in the northern region, which has been a left-wing stronghold in postwar Italy with unbroken leftist administrations for 70 years.
The election was marked by a very high turnout of 67.67%, against 37% in previous regional elections in 2014.
Italy's ruling coalition, formed of the Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, insisted the election would have no impact on the government — but Salvini had threatened to force early elections if his party secured victory.
Humiliated in that regional vote was the populist 5-Star Movement, the largest party in Italy's national Parliament, as it has tanked at some 3.5% of the vote.
Another blow after Luigi Di Maio, Italy's foreign minister, had stepped down as leader of the populist movement last week.
Italy is currently ruled by its 67th government since World War II - which equates to, on average since 1946, a new administration every 12 or 13 months.
Seeing the glass half-full
The usually exuberant Salvini sounded a bit humbled Monday, but hardly stalled in his quest to return his party to national government and become Italy's next leader. He pledged to rebound in six more regional elections to be held in the coming months.
"THANK YOU, let's move forward and keep our head up1" he tweeted.
League candidates or those backed by them have triumphed in eight of nine regional contests, including some in which they wrested control from the centre-left.
``Eight out of nine, it could be worse,'' Salvini told a news conference. ''I'm a perfectionist, I'd have preferred`` nine." Still, he shrugged off the disappointment in Emilia-Romagna.
Determined that Emilia-Romagna would be key to a return to national power, Salvini had campaigned incessantly in there, practically eclipsing his own candidate's visibility.