Elections: Milan, Lombardy swim against the current

Northern region and its capital reject M5S.

While the Five Star Movement (M5S) led by Luigi Di Maio overturned traditional voting habits in Sunday’s general election, sweeping the board across most of the nation, Lombardy (including its capital Milan) did not follow the herd.

In all 55 single-member constituencies in Lombardy, the youngest major party – sorry, Movement – collected a total of zero, overtaken in almost all areas by the centre-right coalition led by Matteo Salvini of the Lega (previously Lega Nord) and Silvio Berlusconi’s hardy perennial Forza Italia.  Only four constituencies, all of them in central Milan, returned a candidate from the centre-left grouping led by the Partito Democratico’s Matteo Renzi.

Lombardy thus distanced itself clearly from the nationwide breakdown, which saw a clear victory for the M5S. Scoring more than any other single party, the movement was beaten only by the centre-right bloc of four parties, while the ruling centre-left suffered a sounding defeat.  Exultant movement leader Di Maio proclaimed a “Third Republic”, while humiliated Renzi tendered his resignation as party secretary.

Lombardy was the only region apart from Lazio in which the regional presidency was also up for grabs, and here too M5S fared poorly.  Taking over the helm from the Lega’s Roberto Maroni, who has held the post since 2013, Lega candidate Attilio Fontana (pictured) won a clear victory with 53 per cent, continuing the right-wing governance of the region uninterrupted since 1995.  He trounced the centre-left’s Giorgio Gori (26 per cent), leaving M5S candidate Dario Violi trailing at 16 per cent.

Not only this: voter turnout in Italy has been trending downward for decades, blamed by most analysts on a general disillusionment with politics and politicians.  But in Lombardy on Sunday, 77 per cent of voters made their voice heard, some 6 points above the national average for the day.

And for those who wonder why the “V” of “Movimento” on the M5S banners is shown as a red, upper-case letter, this is an almost heraldic reminder of the movement’s origins some two years before the M5S was formally incorporated in 2009.  Founder Beppe Grillo, a Genoese stand-up comic banned from RAI for his bawdy routines, organised his first “Vaffanculo Day” (“Fuck-off Day”) to collect signatures for a private member’s bill to overturn what he denounced as the corrupt political establishment, reaping  an unexpected success and leading in less than a decade to Sunday’s triumph – everywhere but in Lombardy.