Italy’s PM Meloni suffers first electoral setback in Sardinia

ROME  -   Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s hardright government on Tuesday suffered its first electoral setback since taking office, as the centre-left opposition gained a narrow victory in a regional vote in Sardinia.

Alessandra Todde, an MP from the once anti-establishment Five Star Movement who also had the backing of the centre-left Democratic Party, becomes the island’s first woman president after winning Sunday’s election. She defeated Paolo Truzzu, a member of Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party who was chosen to represent the coalition government, according to near-final official results. 

Her victory was only by a whisker -- 45.4 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Truzzu -- but is the first such defeat for Meloni since she took office in October 2022. The vote also marked a breakthrough for the opposition, which had been divided until now but came together to field a joint candidate. “Today we’ve shown that the right can be beaten,” said Elly Schlein, leader of the Democratic Party.

Former premier Giuseppe Conte, leader of the Five Star Movement, added: “Sardinian citizens have closed the door on Meloni and company and opened it to the alternative. The air has changed.”

Experts caution about reading too much into a regional vote heavily influenced by local factors, from healthcare to a corruption investigation against the right-wing incumbent. Nationwide, Meloni’s party has been leading opinion polls ever since her election. The latest YouTrend collation of polls puts Brothers of Italy at 28 percent of support, compared to 19.6 percent for the Democratic Party and 16.2 percent for the Five Star Movement.

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