(Reuters) – Voters in two Italian regions, Emilia Romagna in the north and Calabria in the south, went to the polls on Sunday in local elections that could help propel far-right, opposition leader Matteo Salvini to national power.
Both regions are currently controlled by the centre-left and while polls have long predicted a win for the right in the underdeveloped Calabria, the result in the north is far less certain and politically much more significant.
One of Italy’s wealthiest regions, Emilia Romagna is home to the Ferrari sports car and Parmesan cheese and has been a left-wing stronghold since World War Two.
Salvini has spent weeks relentlessly campaigning in the area and hopes that an upset victory for his League party and its rightist partners would so destabilise the coalition government in Rome that it could even collapse.
“If you give us a hand, we’ll go on Monday and ask for early elections to give this country strong, coherent government,” Salvini’s ally Giorgia Meloni, head of the Brothers of Italy party, told a closing rally in Emilia Romagna on Friday.
Salvini’s anti-immigrant, anti-European message has resonated in the region during the campaign, especially in the smaller towns and cities, as has his pledge to slash taxes.