Giovedì, 20 Settembre 2018
ROME

Bersani, Renzi set for centre-left primary runoff

English
© ANSA

Rome, November 26 - Democratic Party (PD) leader
Pier Luigi Bersani is set to take on Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi
in a runoff in the primary to select the centre-left's premier
candidate next weekend after none of the contenders won more
than 50% in Sunday's first round.
As expected Bersani, a 61-year-old former industry
minister, was on course to finish top in the first round, with
44.9% of over three million votes cast, after most of the
ballots had been counted on Monday.
Renzi, a 37-year-old who presents himself as a modernizer,
was second with 35.5%.
The winner of the primary has a good chance of being
Premier Mario Monti's successor as the PD are leading in the
opinion polls ahead of next spring's national elections.
"It's an excellent result," said Bersani, a veteran of
Italy's former Communist party, the rump of which changed into a
social democratic party after the fall of the Berlin wall before
merging with the centrist Margherita (Daisy) party to form the
PD in 2007.
"It will extend the country's attention on us by a week and
this will enable us to show who we are - a great progressive
force that is able to help this country.
"The result for me was enormously encouraging," he added
later on Monday.
"I'm very confident about next Sunday and I'm sure that the
day after we'll all work together for the demanding gallop
toward the elections".
In the runoff Bersani is expected to benefit from the
support of the third-placed candidate, Puglia governor Nichi
Vendola.
But Vendola, who is the leader of the Left, Ecology,
Freedom party that is poised to run in coalition with the PD at
next year's elections, did not give Bersani an immediate
endorsement.
"Pier Luigi Bersani has to earn the votes that I received
in the first round," said the openly gay Vendola, who obtained
15.6% of the votes.
"We will listen to Bersani and Vendola's words with
meticulous attention and we'll orient our support accordingly".
Unlike Vendola, Bersani and Renzi have both said they will
continue the policies of Premier Mario Monti, whose emergency
government has passed austerity measures to steer Italy away
from the centre of the eurozone crisis, as well as structural
economic reforms.
The other two contenders in the first round of the primary
finished some way behind the top three.
Laura Puppato, a businesswoman and PD councillor in the
Veneto regional assembly, and Bruno Tabacci, a member of the
centrist Alliance for Italy party that is also set to run in
coalition with the PD, won 2.6% and 1.4% of the vote
respectively.
The runoff candidates are set to take part in a TV debate
on state broadcaster Rai on Wednesday, sources in Bersani's
campaign said.
Renzi, a slick performer with the media who is campaigning
for Italy's political class to be rejuvenated and has been
compared to the young Tony Blair, said he is hopeful of winning
the primary despite coming second in the first round.
"We'll try to beat Bersani and do it with fair play," said
Renzi. "If he wins, then we'll help him.
"The central issue is that we are starting again from
scratch and we will play right up to the last minute.
"We have to go and win over new people, who might have
voted for Tabacci, Puppato or Vendola and who are ready to think
and reflect regardless of the suggestions (given to them by the
defeated candidates)".
The fact that so many people voted in the first round of the
primary was hailed as a big success for the centre left by the
candidates and by political pundits.
It was also seen as a good response to the growing tide of
public skepticism about the country's political class as a
whole.
There is widespread disenchantment with the established
parties, which have been hit by a series of scandals and have
been discredited to some degree by having to call on Monti's
technocrats to take over governing the country when the
financial crisis risked spiralling out of control last year.
This has helped comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment
Five Star Movement, which is against public funding of parties
and wants a referendum on whether the euro should be Italy's
currency, to climb to second place in the opinion polls behind
the PD.
Among the people to applaud the primary was ex-premier
Silvio Berlusconi, who said the PD had served up a fine example
of democracy, adding that he hoped Renzi would win.
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party is scheduled to
have a primary of its own to choose its premier candidate on
December 16, although this has been thrown into doubt by the
ex-premier saying he was reconsidering his decision not to
stand.
PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano, who is one of six candidates
set to run in the primary, has said the selection process will
be redundant if Berlusconi decides to run for a fourth term as
premier.
The PdL, the biggest party in parliament at the moment, has
dropped to third in the opinion polls after a series of
corruption scandals hitting top centre-right politicians in Rome
and Milan.

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