Sicily sneezes

In the regional elections in Sicily the turnout was the lowest on record — just 47.4%. The result was a victory to the Democratic Party - (PD) led coalition, ahead of the People of Freedom - (PdL) led coalition (founded by Berlusconi), then the Five Star Movement (M5S). However on 18% M5S is largest single party.

The PdL got around 700,000 votes fewer than in 2008 i.e. 12% of the vote: the centre left PD nearly 200,000 less i.e.13%.

The populist M5S got 18%! Third, nearly 53% of the voting population abstained! The victorious centre-left won 30.7% via the votes of its the coalition partners so too, the 25.7% of the PdL!

With no absolute majority the governing coalition of the centre left, the former leader and ex/governor of its other major component, the Centre Party, (now in prison for mafia involvement!) looks likely to survive with the support of other smaller coalition forces, an ideological rag-bag of proven opportunists, careerists, mafia sympathisers. These range from the so-called radical left to right-wing Sicilian nationalists.

And with the largest single force on the island now undisputedly that of Grillo, whose "victory" is entirely due to his crusade against the Monti government and the corruption of parties sustaining it, the stage is set for him and his deputies to turn their demagogy and rhetorical firepower against the fragile regional government and its defence of the premier's austerity programme.

Another election there might not be too far away! As ever Sicily is a laboratory in which the dynamic of events are re-inforced and consolidated on the mainland. There the major parties may well be getting a preview of the turn of events that awaits them, as national elections are due in the spring.

Berlusconi's party is in free fall, all the more after his backtracking on his decision to resign when he got four years for fraud, fatally widening its internal divisions. The centre left PD, shamefully sustained by the major trade union federations, remains ahead in the polls, but continues to support as its divisions open up further, under opposition from below and fierce pressure from above to prepare to assume the role of responsible national leader guaranteeing stability against the possible tsunami of the Grillo movement.
For its part, tragically, beyond its anti-"politics” and “politicians" rant, it is bereft of any coherent program to address either the origins of the crisis or the needs of the suffering working masses. It utters not a word about the capitalist world that sustains “corruption”. Nor the visceral ties that link it and its state with the criminal world of the clans, ensuring six decades of "social peace" in Italy's southern regions, a wilderness of mass poverty unequalled anywhere in Europe.

But the anger, fury and determination that Grillo expresses and exploits is real; the challenge and test that faces the serious left in Italy remains that of offering, through mass working-class led struggle on every front, a strategic direction whose final goal must be the overthrow of the ruling political order and its replacement by a democratic socialist workers republic of Italy.