03 february 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, 34-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 left-wing political front — also embodied by the grassroots protest movement Sardines — thwarted right-wing populist Matteo Salvini’s attempt to unseat the center-left regional government in the left’s historic stronghold of Emilia-Romagna. The loss in the Jan. 26 regional vote also delayed Salvini’s ambition to retake 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 Parliament members. He made her wait 80 seconds for a response while he looked at his phone, then asserted 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 percent majority support by nearly 4 percent.