It is cold that evening in Argenta. Dense fog has a firm grip on the city. The pointer on the tower clock in the center is just before eight. People have been waiting for Stefano Bonaccini for an hour. The 53-year-old is president of the Emilia-Romagna region, and he now wants to be re-elected. Bonaccini is on the way, says one of the organizers over loudspeakers, somewhere in the vastness of the Italian Po Valley, he is struggling through the fog. Those present curled up in their jackets and waited without grumbling.
"I guess there are about two hundred," says an official of the social democratic Partito Democratico (PD), of which Bonaccini is a member. She looks reasonably satisfied. It wasn't long ago that the left in Emilia-Romagna filled streets, squares and halls with ease. In this area north of the region's capital, Bologna, Social Democrats and Socialists achieved election results of around sixty percent for decades. One call was enough and the masses came.
How much of that power is left? How many more people come when you call them? These are fearful questions for the Italian left. Emilia-Romagna is one of its last strongholds. In the regional elections next Sunday, this stronghold could fall, taken by a man who seemed to have recently been written off: Matteo Salvini, head of Lega Nord. In the latest surveys, the Lega in the region is between 41 and 45 percent, only just behind the PD. In Calabria, where voting is also taking place, the polls even see the Lega at the front. The big price is Emilia-Romagna.
Losing the left there would have an impact on all of Italy. The coalition government of social democrats and the five-star movement in Rome could break. Salvini would be close to his goal: to return to power, which he had lost less than six months ago. At that time, in early August 2019, he was Minister of the Interior and wanted to force new elections. He said a sentence that frightened many Italians: "I want all the power!" He didn't succeed. Socialists and the five-star movement joined forces to prevent new elections. Salvini lost his position and, his opponents hoped, was to "starve" on the opposition bench. However, the Lega is still stable in voter surveys nationwide at 30 percent - far ahead of all other parties.
Stefano Bonaccini is the man who is supposed to prevent the Lega from winning in Emilia-Romagna. Shortly after eight o'clock he finally appears. He finally found Argenta through the fog. Bonaccini climbs up on the stage, looks around and first names a number: "Two or three hundred people who have endured here in the cold for so long is a good sign, a very good sign!" It sounds like he wants to reassure himself that the left can still mobilize. That his party still has supporters who take to the streets for them.
Bonaccini describes what he has achieved in the past five years and what he wants to achieve in the future. He speaks with passion, his sentences are peppered with numbers and facts. Bonaccini's record is remarkable. Unemployment has dropped from 9 to 5 percent, the industry in the region has survived the long-lasting crisis somewhat unscathed, tourism is booming, health care is functioning. At the end of his speech, Bonaccini says: "If Italy were governed like Emilia-Romagna, it would be a better country!" The statistics clearly prove him right.
However, statistics alone are not enough to win elections; feelings are more likely, especially in these troubled times. According to a recently published study by the renowned Cattaneo institute, the people in Emilia-Romagna are primarily concerned with one thing: fear of the future. "Above all, parents fear that their offspring can never achieve the security and prosperity that they still have today," write the authors of the study. The future is no longer "what it used to be". Globalization, robotization, digitization - there is less hope associated with this, but the diffuse fear of being overwhelmed by all of this.