Thomas Jones · The Elections in Italy
Like a complete idiot I assumed that informing the ufficio anagrafe I'd changed my address would automatically mean the electoral register would be updated too. Residency is a big deal here: the police are supposed to come and check that you live where you say you do before the town council will update the official record, and all sorts of things – from being taxed and getting an ID card to buying a car or paying lower (domestic rather than business-rate) electricity bills – are dependent on it. I thought the right to vote was one of them. By the time I learned a couple of weeks ago that the ufficio elettorale is distinct and down the hall from the ufficio anagrafe, it was too late to register for the weekend's ballot. (I'd have been just as stuffed in the UK, where the deadline was 7 April.) Even for the local elections? Even for the local elections. Oh dear.
Italy was no exception to the Europe-wide lurch rightwards. The country fragmented along the usual fault lines: the strongest support for parties of the right came from the poor south and the rich north, with the left holding on by its fingertips only in the centre of the country. But even here there was a shift rightwards: for the first time ever a right-wing party, Berlusconi's Popolo della Libertà, was the most popular among Umbrian voters for the European Parliament. (This is mostly a symbolic shock. The margin was narrow, and Central Italy's 14 seats are divided up as follows: six for the Pdl, six for the centre-left Partito Democratico, and one each for the xenophobic Lega Nord, the liberal Italia dei Valori and the Catholic Unione di Centro.) The swing wasn't so pronounced in the local elections: the Pd and its allies clung to power in the provincial government.
The biggest upset locally however is that for the first time ever there wasn't an outright winner in the town's mayoral election. The Pd candidate – whose predecessor sailed into office with nearly 60 per cent of the vote five years ago – was floundering in the mid-40s, only a percentage point or two ahead of her Pdl rival. The Communist candidate came in third with 11 per cent. There's to be a Communist-free run-off in two weeks time. So I called the ufficio elettorale this morning to see if I could register to vote in that. The woman who answered the phone sounded hassled. She said she didn't know what the procedure is: they've never had to organise a run-off here before. Could I ring back tomorrow morning?