The fragile ruling coalition in Italy is preparing for crucial regional elections on Sunday in Emilia-Romagna, which the far right hopes will trigger a political earthquake and allow its sultry leader Matteo Salvini to return to power.

Some 3.5 million voters are called to vote between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. to elect their regional executive. One of the keys to the ballot will be participation when two out of three voters had not voted in the last regional elections in 2014.

Representatives of the majority formed by the Democratic Party (PD, center-left) and the 5 Star movement (M5S, anti-system) may have repeated that this election will have no impact on the government, the head of the League, Matteo Salvini, warned: if his party wins in Emilia-Romagna, he will demand early legislative elections on Monday.

With polls showing the League leading intentions to vote at 30%, and the first party in Italy, the populist hopes that a return of the Italians to the polls will be synonymous for him to regain power.

An anti-Salvinian dynamic?

A rich north-central region of the peninsula, bathed by the Adriatic, Emilia-Romagna has long been an impregnable bastion of the left, even if the right has made serious incursions into its villages and countryside. The last polls published before the media silence imposed by law showed that the right, led by the League, was neck and neck with the Democratic Party.

Supported by former head of government Silvio Berlusconi, far-right candidate Lucia Borgonzoni, 43, was overshadowed by Matteo Salvini who crisscrossed the region and flooded social networks with electoral photos and messages. The far-right leader angered the left on Saturday by breaking the pre-election silence with a tweet on the "eviction notice" which he will hand over to the government after his victory.

In the opposing camp, the outgoing regional president and candidate of the left Stefano Bonaccini opposed him during his campaign the good management and the economic results in Emilia-Romagna which posts an unemployment rate of 5.9% (against 9.7 % nationally) and growth of 2.2% in 2018.

The elected representative of the left could also benefit from the anti-Salvinian dynamic created by the Sardines, a youth movement born in the region two months ago and quickly becoming a national symbol of the protest against the far right.

Some analysts say, however, that many local family and craft businesses are dissatisfied and feel left behind by globalization. Others explain that the traditional left has abandoned those it once sought to defend to satisfy other interests.

An M5S plagued by internal struggles

For the first time in its history, the League triumphed in Emilia-Romagna in the European elections in May, becoming the first regional party with almost 34% of the votes, exceeding 31% of the PD. Five years earlier, it had won only 5% of the vote, against 53% for the left party.

The main factor of stability for the ruling majority in Italy, weakened by divisions, is the common fear of a premature return to the polls that could allow Matteo Salvini to return to business.

But a victory for the League would increase tensions within the majority, the PD then probably accusing the M5S of having refused to present a single candidate, thus dividing the anti-Salvini vote.

Experts believe that such a result could cause the collapse of the M5S, plagued by internal struggles and which fifteen parliamentarians have defected in recent weeks.

M5S chief Luigi Di Maio resigned on Wednesday to try to avoid a crisis, but observers have warned that this may not be enough.

With AFP

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