Democratic Party Primary: A Rebirth Of The Italian Left?

The Democratic Party held its primary election for secretary. As widely predicted, Nicola Zingaretti won

Last Sunday, the Democratic Party held its primary election for the new secretary. As widely predicted in the last few months, Nicola Zingaretti, the governor of Lazio, was elected with more than 66 percent of votes.

Zingaretti has almost 30 years of experience in politics, being at first member of the Youth Communist Movement, member of the European Parliament and then president of the province of Rome. He is considered to be one of the most leftist figures in the party and there are expectations that, under his more conciliatory political approach, some of the former DP members, who left in protest against former secretary Matteo Renzi, will return.

While he is very discreet, his brother Luca Zingaretti is famous for playing Detective Montalbano in a prime time TV series, popular both in Italy and worldwide. The other two candidates were Maurizio Martina and Roberto Giacchetti. The first was appointed as Democratic Party interim secretary after the March 4 debacle. Martina has always been really close to Matteo Renzi on a personal level, as he was the former Minister of Agricolture of his government. Roberto Giacchetti was the Democratic candidate in the 2016 municipal elections in Rome, where he lost against Virginia Raggi, the Five Star Movement candidate. His political views are considered the most consistent with those of Renzi.

The former secretary and prime minister did not endorse publicly one of the three candidates, trying not to interfere in the debate. Indeed, if in the past Renzi has always been accused of centralizing too much power in his hands, by  eliminating internal dissent and turning the Democratic Party into a personal political force, nowadays his influence seems, at least in words, lower. That’s also why he declared that he won’t do “any kind of guerrilla” against the future secretary, wishing him good luck for his work.

Despite the low tones of the debate, participation has been unexpectedly high, with 1 million and 600 thousand people showing up at the party sections and gazebos. Nevertheless, this is the lower result in the history of the party. In any case, apart from the specific case of Rousseau, the Democratic Party is the only political organization in Italy that holds primary election open to everyone. After a first phase where the card-carrying members of the party cast their preference, there is a second ballot in which, with a contribution of 2 euros, people aged 16 years and also non-EU citizens resident in Italy can vote.

The first test for the new secretary will be the next European elections in May. The party aims to rebuild itself with clearer and less shy positions and start again to talk again to a disappointed electorate. Maybe Zingaretti will manage to build alliances with the former DP members, reassembling a united progressive and pro-European front against the sovranists.

This was also his method for winning the 2018 regional election in Lazio, where he formed an alliance with other left-wing parties and civil society associations. However, in this case it is going to be more difficult, as the complex world of the Italian left has a tendency to be really litigious and because regional dynamics are different from national mechanisms. For instance, one important issue that the left will need to face at national level is the heart-felt request of transferring more administrative autonomy to the Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna regions. While Zingaretti agrees, Pietro Grasso, former president of the Senate, former DP member and leader of the leftist party Liberi e Uguali, is against it.

With the center-right led by Matteo Salvini making a strong comeback, if the left wants to get back in the game, it should put divergences aside with the aim of managing the next broad — and really delicate — political event with at least a minimum of common sense.