By Marzia De Giuli
MILAN, Italy, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Italy's most industrialized region, Lombardy, proved to be a stronghold of the center-right as the candidate of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's coalition, Roberto Maroni, was elected the regional president on Tuesday.
Maroni gained the upper hand over his main contender Umberto Ambrosoli, a grassroots lawyer backed by the center-left, at the end of a knife's edge electoral race.
The results came after Monday's national elections turned into success for the center-right, though favorite center-left still managed to grab slight majority in parliament.
In Lombardy, which has the largest population in Italy thus was decisive for parliamentary composition, 85 percent of entitled citizens went to the polls. More than 37 percent of their votes were for the Berlusconi coalition.
Maroni, 57, is the head of Northern League, a regionalist party with roots in the wealthy north of Italy and the best ally of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party.
The Northern League survived a season of recent funding scandals promising a federalist program centered on more independence for local administrations.
According to observers, the vote reflected strong middle class in a region that, despite producing around a fourth of Italy's economic output and housing a sixth of its population, suffered the most from recession deepened by the caretaker government's painful therapy of austerity.
In fact, the center-left proved itself deficient in taking the mood of the "historical bloc" of Berlusconi's supporters in Lombardy, whose capital city Milan is also the home of the entrepreneur, a news analyst at Rai state television, Giorgio Simonelli, told Xinhua.
"Lombardy's workers showed no confidence in leftist programs seen as based on statehood and egalitarianism, while were won over by rightist promises of tax cuts and reimbursements," he said.
However, the new administration will have to deal with a "moral question" in a region registering record-high fiscal evasion and widespread organized crime, said a distinguished economics professor at Milan Bocconi University, Tito Boeri.
Boeri ruled out that Maroni's pledge to leave at least 75 percent of the tax revenue produced within the single region is feasible.
"Self-referential federalism has the only effect to satisfy the needs of local governors and increase squandering of public money," he said.
In his view, Lombardy has strong enough shoulders to continue to be the driving force of Italy and one of the engines of the European economy.
But growth-oriented issues in the long term such as new infrastructural projects, more efficient labor laws and simplified bureaucracy will have to be felt the priority in pushing recovery, he said.