The main news in today’s Italian press is the release of data on unemployment and economicgrowth by ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics. The data shows a decline in the youth unemployment rate, . people aged between 15 and 24 years old, which has reached its lowest point since 2012. Still, the rate remains quite high, as more than one young person out of three is unemployed (34,1%). The statistics also reveal an increase in the unemployment rate of the older segment of Italians (older than 50 years old), with an increase of 59,000 people on the unemployment rolls in March 2017.Data on economic growth seem encouraging. According to ISTAT’s official statistics, during the first three months of 2017, Italy’s GDP grew approximately 0,4%, 0,2 percentage points higher than forecasted by the government. This moves Italy closer to its yearly goal of 1,1% GDP growth and considerably strengthens the current government’s standing.
Local elections are also approaching. On June 11th more than one thousand municipalities will elect their mayor, included four regional capitals (Catanzaro, Genova, L’Aquila and Palermo) as well as several crucial medium size cities (such as Parma, Piacenza and six other municipalities with more than 100,000 citizens). These elections will be an important test for the main parties to measure their electoral strength in view of possible parliamentary elections this fall.
The most interesting mayoral “races” are those of Parma, Genova and Palermo. In Parma the Five Star Movement’s outgoing mayor Federico Pizzarotti is running for re-election, this time, though, as an independent after a hard exit from the M5S after he accused it of opaqueness and a lack of democracy. In Genova, M5S leader Beppe Grillo’s hometown, the centre-left seems to be favoured over the center-right and M5S candidates. Beppe Grillo’s party, surprisingly, lags after controversies linked to the exclusion of the internal primary winner Marika Cassimatis directly by Beppe Grillo. M5S’s leader claimed that Cassimatis behaved contrary to the principles of the Movement, without further explaining his decision. In Palermo, the situation is quite paradoxical with political parties changing their backing of candidates. Current mayor Leoluca Orlando is running for re-election, backed this time by Partito Democratico and the newborn center party Alternativa Popolare, both previously in the opposition. His main competitor is Fabrizio Ferrandelli, a former PD candidate, who is now backed by Berlusconi’s party Forza Italia and a center-right coalition.
Finally, in a ceremony held in Cremona, the President of the Lombardy Region Roberto Maroni signed a decree announcing a referendum onautonomy, to be held on October 22nd. The goal of independence for northern Italy (which includes the regions of Veneto and Piemonte) has always been one of the main issues in the Northern League’s platform, Mr. Maroni’s party. However, this fall citizens will not be asked to express their opinion on total independence from Italy, but, rather, increased autonomy,especially withregard totheredistribution ofthetaxbase intheregion. This referendum (in case of victory), can also be seen as a move by President Maroni to demonstrate his popularity and to promote himself in the lead up to the regional elections which will be held next year. The same day a similar referendum will be held in the Veneto region, led by Northern League member Luca Zaia.