In Sunday’s election for the new leader of Italy’s opposition Democratic Party (PD), the party’s rising star, former MEP Elly Schlein, who holds American and Italian citizenship and grew up in Switzerland, was a surprise winner.
Schlein won with 54 percent of the vote Stefano Bonaccinipresident of the Emilia-Romagna region, to whom opinion polls attributed the greatest chance of victory.
“The Social Democratic people are alive and ready to rise up. I received a clear mandate for real changes in the party. We will put the fight against any inequality at the center,” said Schlein after winning the election, adding that the center-left Democratic Party will “presented a problem” for the centre-right government led by Giorgio Meloni.
During her election campaign, she promised a thorough overhaul of the party, which is often accused of losing touch with reality. Schlein has repeatedly warned that the party is fragmented and has lacked a clear identity in recent years. She also stood up for the transition to a green economy and greater fairness in the labor market.
Comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Schlein was born in Switzerland, her ancestors on her father’s side have Ukrainian roots and lived in the USA. In 2008 and 2012, she participated in the election campaign of the former American president Barack Obama, due to her steep rise and political engagement, the Italian media compared her to an American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Between 2014 and 2019, she was a member of the European Parliament, and in 2020, as the leader of the small Coraggios (Brave) party, she rose to the position of vice-president of the Emilia-Romagna region and became Bonaccini’s right-hand man. By running for the leadership of the PD party, she thus challenged her mentor, who was otherwise considered the favorite. She will replace the current party secretary Enrica Lettawho announced his resignation as the head of the party after the autumn elections, in which the PD received about 20 percent of the vote, and announced that he would no longer run for the position at the next congress.
The PD party was founded in 2007 as a center-left party that unites former communists, socialists and Christian Democrats. Between 2013 and 2018, the position of Prime Minister was held by three of its members, namely Letta, Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni.
Currently, public opinion polls predict around 17% support for the party.