Autonomists retain absolute majority in South Tyrol elections

The South Tyrolean People’s Party, which has dominated politics in the province in recent decades, wins just over 50% of votes, down seven percentage points · The Libertarians, a populist party that wants unification with Austria, are the big winners of the election, tripling their support and becoming the second largest party in the provincial assembly.

The pro-autonomy South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) has maintained its position as the major political force in the northern Italian province. Although the party was down seven percent on the 2003 provincial elections, the SVP has managed to retain its absolute majority, winning eight seats, three fewer than five years ago. As a result, the incumbent president, Luis Durnwalder, who has been at the helm since 1989, will govern the province for a further term.

Quite some distance behind the SVP, the Libertarians (Die Freiheitlichen) won five seats (three more than in 2003) and managed to triple their support (from 5% to 14.2%). In third place, with three seats, was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (Popolo della Libertà) party. The Democratic Party (Demokratische Partei), the Greens (Verdi Grüne Vërc) and South Tyrolean Freedom (Süd-Tiroler Freiheit) all went away with two seats each. And finally, Union for South Tyrol (Union für Südtirol), the Northern League (Lega Nord Südtirol) and Unitalia (Unitalia Movimento Iniziativa Sociale) won one seat each.

These elections, then, will surely only bring minor changes to this predominantly German-speaking alpine province, the northernmost in the Italian state, which shares borders with Austria to the north, Italy to the south and Switzerland to the west. The Council of the Autonomous Province of Bozen (Bolzano), the name given to the South Tyrol's legislative body, will once again be dominated by South Tyrolean parties. The major parties operating throughout Italy - People of Freedom and the Democratic Party - only obtained five seats in total, while the South Tyrolean nationalists won no fewer than 26.

But there are significant differences within the South Tyrolean nationalist camp. The SVP, with its social-democratic, Christian and autonomist ideology, defends the interests of the German- and Ladin-speaking communities, without demanding changes to the current status of the province, which enjoys considerable autonomy under the terms of a bilateral agreement between Italy and Austria and the 1972 Statute of Autonomy. Other parties, such as the Libertarians, are calling for a referendum on unification with Austria. Union for South Tyrol and its splinter group South Tyrolean Freedom also defend the right of the South Tyrolean people to self-determination.

Analysis of the election results also reveals a clear increase in support for right-wing parties that adopt a hard line on issues such as immigration. The phenomenon in the South Tyrol is comparable to recent elections in Austria, in which far right parties obtained almost 30% of the vote.

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See the South Tyrol profile for further information.