The Democratic Party's new leader, Nicola Zingaretti, acknowledged at a news conference in Rome that the elections, which are being held May 23-26 in all 28 European Union nations, "will be a difficult battle" but he said the party would confront them with "great conviction."
The center-left party was once a powerful force in Italian politics, most recently governing the country from 2013-18, a long stretch by Italian standards. But weakened by internal divisions, the party was further hurt when then-Premier Matteo Renzi put constitutional reforms up for a vote in a referendum that failed in 2016.
In the last election, in 2018, the Democrats suffered a heavy defeat to the populist 5-Star Movement and the anti-migrant League party, who now govern in a coalition. This European election comes as the party is attempting a comeback. Zingaretti described the candidates as men and women with different civic experiences but "united by an idea of the future."
Dr. Pietro Bartolo of Lampedusa said he was running in hopes that his experience might help Europe to "retake those values on which it was founded," citing "hospitality, solidarity, respect and respect for human rights."
Franco Roberti, a retired national anti-Mafia prosecutor who is highly respected for combating the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples, said he hopes to contribute to Europe in the areas of justice and security.
"I believe that not me, as Franco Roberti, but our country, Italy, has a lot to say on these themes," Roberti said. "In some areas, we are a model for the other European countries. So we want to continue to export our model and assert our priorities."