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Italy’s Meloni suffers election setback as she loses control of Sardinia.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni faced a significant setback in the recent election in Sardinia, marking her first major electoral loss since assuming office in 2022. The results, announced on Tuesday, showed that her right-wing bloc lost control of the Mediterranean island.

Alessandra Todde, a member of the left-leaning 5-Star Movement supported by the Democratic Party (PD), secured victory with 45.4% of the vote in Sunday’s election. She narrowly defeated Paolo Truzzu, Meloni’s chosen candidate, who received 45.0% of the vote.

Although a few ballots are yet to be counted, Truzzu has already conceded defeat, while Todde celebrated her win alongside PD leader Elly Schlein and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who leads the 5-Star Movement. Schlein commented, “The winds are changing.”

Todde, a former undersecretary of industry and a successful businesswoman, will be the first female president of Sardinia and the first president of any region from the 5-Star Movement.

This election result is significant as it marks the first time since 2015 that the center-left has managed to win control of a region, providing a morale boost to opposition parties. The outcome also sets the stage for four more regional elections scheduled for 2024 and nationwide elections for the European Parliament set for June.

“Sardinia’s election result has shattered the perception of Giorgia Meloni’s political invincibility,” remarked Francesco Galietti, founder of the political risk firm Policy Sonar.

Meloni had pushed for the replacement of the outgoing governor, supported by the League, with a candidate from her own party, but this choice turned out to be unpopular.

Despite winning all four regional elections in 2023 and maintaining control over 14 out of Italy’s 20 regions, Meloni’s coalition, which includes her Brothers of Italy party, the League, and Forza Italia, suffered a defeat in Sardinia.

While national polls suggest that the right-wing coalition is leading, the weakening position of the League has raised doubts about the future of its leader, Matteo Salvini. The League received only 3.7% of the vote in Sardinia, a significant drop from its 11.4% in the island’s previous regional election in 2019.

The outcome of Sunday’s election has injected optimism into the 5-Star Movement and the PD, indicating that they can challenge the right, especially at the local and regional levels, if they can overcome their frequent differences and present a united front.

Sardinia, one of Italy’s main islands with approximately 1.44 million adult residents, saw a voter turnout of 52.4%.

The next regional election in Italy is scheduled for March 10 in Abruzzo, a central region east of Rome, where the PD and 5-Star Movement have once again formed an alliance.

According to national opinion polls, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy is leading with around 28%, followed by the PD with about 20%, and the 5-Star Movement with 16%.

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