Faced with local elections to be held in major cities in 2016, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will have a hard time. His Democratic Party will be almost alone against the right, the Five Stars Movement and the new leftist party which is being founded. Moreover, the DP local elites have been involved in embarrassing scandals.
From his official visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Renzi even stated that the opposition has attempted – unsuccessfully, of course – to overthrow his Government.
This is an exaggeration. Even if the Democratic Party will lose all the local elections on schedule, not only the Government will survive, but Mr Renzi will also probably win the next general election.
First of all, at the national level the voters will be influenced by the strong personal charisma of Mr Renzi, who has not been weakened by any criminal investigation or similar suspect.
Secondly, the Italian voters like to use the local election to express what is called a “protest vote”, giving their preference to outsider parties. However, when the time comes to vote in a general election, they will choose the safest candidate, the one who looks more likely to protect their money and bank accounts.
In the Berlusconi era, the international investors thought that the Cavaliere could not be such a candidate, but the Italian had a different opinion because they did not trust the post-communist establishment which dominated the Italian left before Mr Renzi.
That is why Mr Berlusconi was weak in the local elections, but strong in the national ones. On the contrary, the Italian Communist Party was very strong at the local level, especially in some regions, but it never won a general election.