Anti-establishment Five Star movement candidate wins local polls in capital suffering from corruption and poor services.
Rome, June 20, 2016:Â Virginia Raggi has been elected as Rome’s first female mayor in a triumph for the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), representing a stinging setback for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Raggi swept into City Hall on Sunday with two thirds of the votes cast in a run-off contest with Roberto Giachetti of Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
A lawyer and local councillor, Raggi has leapt from anonymity to become one of the best-known faces in Italian politics in the space of only a few months on the campaign trail.
Raggi swept into City Hall with two thirds of the votes cast in a run-off contest with Roberto Giachetti of Renzi’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
More than nine million voters were eligible to take part in the second-round election in 126 communes, including Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Bologna.
The result is a blow for Renzi’s bloc and makes her the rising star of the M5S, the anti-establishment party founded by comedian-turned politician Beppe Grillo.
M5S has emerged as the best-supported opposition to Renzi’s coalition and success in Rome could provide a platform for a tilt at national power in general elections due in 2018.
The PD also faces defeat in Italy’s financial capital Milan and a tough challenge in Turin.
“We are witnessing a historic moment,” Raggi said after the June 5 first round of voting, from which she emerged with 35 percent of the vote, well ahead of her runoff rival, Roberto Giachetti (24 percent).
It was a remarkable achievement for a party with a very limited organisational apparatus and also for a woman who only entered politics five years ago.
That was a move, she recently told the AFP news agency, triggered by the birth of her son Matteo and her determination that he should not grow up in a city beset by the intertwined problems of failing public services and endemic corruption.
Opposition to Italy’s endemic cronyism and sleaze is the foundation of M5S’s appeal to voters and the Roman electorate have had their fill of those in recent years.
Dozens of local businessmen, officials and politicians are currently on trial for their involvement in a criminal network that ripped off the city to the tune of tens – if not hundreds – of millions.
Mafia Capitale scandal
From stealing the funds allocated to get ethnic Roma children to school out of isolated camps, to paving the city’s streets with wafer-thin surfaces, scams abounded for years, according to prosecutors, in what is known as the Mafia Capitale scandal.
Renzi has sought to minimise the implications of the results of the election repeating that the “mother of all battles” for him is an October referendum on sweeping constitutional reforms aimed at ushering in stability into Italian politics.
Renzi has pledged to step down if he loses.
In the run-up to the second round, there have been reports in the Italian press that Raggi failed to declare payments for consultations to a public body, an allegation she has dismissed.
“It’s just muck-racking,” she said. “I have already clarified that I have declared everything and it’s all in line with the rules.”
Mario Calabresi, the editor of Italy’s prominent La Repubblica daily, said in an editorial on Saturday that the polls were “destined to leave a mark on Italian politics and a possible rupture with the established system”.
He said the party for many was “associated with hope”.