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By COLLEEN BARRY | Associated Press |
Published: February 2, 2020



BOLOGNA, Italy — A dual U.S.-Italian citizen who cut her political organizing teeth on two Barack Obama campaigns is emerging as the latest rising star in Italian politics.

Inside a week, 35-year-old Elly Schlein, a former European lawmaker who grew up in Switzerland, has gone from relative obscurity as a political operative to the face of Italy’s new leftist forces.

That political front — embodied also by the new left-wing Sardines grassroots protest movement — thwarted right-wing populist Matteo Salvini’s attempt to unseat the center-left regional government in its historic stronghold of Emilia-Romagna. That loss in the Jan. 26 regional vote also delayed Salvini’s ambition to re-take power in Italy’s national government.

Schlein’s visibility skyrocketed just days before the election when a video went viral of her confronting Salvini — Italy’s former firebrand interior minister — over his failure to show up for 22 negotiating sessions on migration policy when they both represented Italy as European lawmakers.

He made her wait 80 seconds for a response while he looked at his phone, then said that he was present when it counted.

With just three months of campaigning for a place on Emilia-Romagna’s regional council, Schlein won the most write-in votes in the region’s electoral history. Her party, Emilia-Romagna Courageous, boosted the center-left Democratic Party incumbent’s 51% majority support by nearly 4%.

The stunning result has made Schlein’s political future the subject of national speculation.

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