Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni speaks during a press conference after an extraordinary meeting of EU Summit at The European Council Building in Brussels on Feb 10, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her coalition allies secured emphatic election wins in the two wealthiest regions of the country on Monday, strengthening the right's grip on power amid growing voter apathy.
Less than five months after sweeping to power at the national level, the conservative bloc took more than 55 percent of the vote in Lombardy, home to the financial capital Milan, and around 50 percent in Lazio, which is centred on Rome.
It was the first electoral test for Meloni since she won power last September and confirmed that she is still enjoying a strong honeymoon with voters, helped by a weak opposition that failed to present a unified front in either region
"This result consolidates the centre-right and strengthens the work of the government," Meloni wrote on Twitter.
READ MORE: Italy's new PM, govt sworn in
It was the first electoral test for Meloni since she won power last September and confirmed that she is still enjoying a strong honeymoon with voters, helped by a weak opposition that failed to present a unified front in either region.
However, the resounding victory was partially overshadowed by the fact that only 40 percent of people cast a ballot — the lowest turnout ever recorded for Lazio and Lombardy, which together account for just over a quarter of the Italian population.
"It is unfortunate that the turnout was very, very low. We must try to rebuild the relationship between citizens and institutions," Fabio Rampelli, a senior member of Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, told RAI television.
While the right already controlled Lombardy, they grabbed Lazio from the centre-left, meaning conservatives now run 15 of Italy's 20 regions as well as central government, giving it a unique opportunity to shape domestic politics.
Brothers of Italy confirmed its position as the most popular party in the country, winning an estimated 33 percent backing in Lazio and 26 percent in Lombardy — in line with the 2022 general election.
However, fears inside the coalition that support might crumble for Meloni's two main partners proved unfounded. Matteo Salvini's League strengthened its standing in its Lombardy heartlands while Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia easily outpaced centrist rivals who had courted its supporters.
READ MORE: Far-right leader Meloni becomes Italy's first woman PM
The result offered no comfort to the centre-left camp, comprising the Democratic Party (PD), the 5-Star Movement and so-called Third Pole, which is riven by mutual loathing.
"We hope that this result finally shows 5-Star and the Third Pole that the opposition should be directed against the government and not the PD," said PD leader Enrico Letta.
Italy's electoral laws at both a national and regional level favour parties that combine forces meaning Meloni's opponents face years in the wilderness unless they learn to work together.