Wednesday

23rd May 2018

Populist mayor takes Rome in setback for Renzi

  • Mayor Virginia Raggi promised to open up a new era in the rule of Rome. (Photo: Virginia Raggi's official Twitter account)

Italy’s prime minister Matteo Renzi suffered a setback on Sunday (19 June) as his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) lost control of Rome and Turin to populist mayoral candidates.

Virginia Raggi, from the Five Star Movement (M5S), won two out of every three votes in the run-off against PD candidate Roberto Giachetti.

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The 37-year old lawyer and local councillor is the first woman and the youngest in 100 years to claim the keys to Rome’s city hall.

Raggi won over voters disgruntled by the dire state of the capital city, which is struggling to provide basic services such as trash collection and public transport after years of maladministration.

The previous mayor, PD's Ignazio Marino, was forced to step down in October over an expenses issue and broader concerns that he failed to handle a criminal network suspected of defrauding the city of millions of euros.

The crime syndicate, known as Mafia Capitale, embezzled money destined for city services, notably the reception of refugees and help to Roma people.

One of the defendants was caught on tape saying that it was much more profitable to siphon refugee funds than to sell drugs.

”With us a new era is opening,” Raggi vowed on election night. "I will be a mayor for all Romans. I will restore legality and transparency to the city's institutions after 20 years of poor governance", she said.

PD also lost the northern city of Turin to M5S, where another woman, Chiara Appendino, 31, ousted the incumbent mayor with the backing of the far-right Northern League party.

The centre-left managed to keep hold of Milan, Bologna and Naples.

The victory in Rome could give M5S a platform for the national elections in 2018.

It is already a splinter in the eye of Renzi, who vowed to resign as prime minister if the Italians do not back a referendum on far-reaching constitutional reforms due in October.

Both M5S and the far-right see the vote as an opportunity to undermine the prime minister.

Renzi rose to power in 2014 amid promises of one reform a month. But Italy is still struggling to get back to growth after years of stagnation.

The constitutional reform would strengthen the power of the executive over Italy’s upper house, the Senate.

The local elections showed faltering faith in Renzi’s promises to change the country, but also in politicians in general. Only half of those entitled to vote turned up to the polls.

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