Sunday 23 October 2016

Anti-establishment candidate becomes first female mayor of Rome

Published 20/06/2016 | 01:06

Virginia Raggi casts her ballot in a polling station in Rome (AP)
Virginia Raggi casts her ballot in a polling station in Rome (AP)

An anti-establishment newcomer has trounced prime minister Matteo Renzi's candidate in Rome's mayoral election to become the first woman to head City Hall in the Italian capital.

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Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star Movement capitalised on anger over political corruption and deteriorating city services to lead by a two-to-one margin with more than 80% of ballots counted.

Her rival, Democrat Roberto Giachetti, who was backed by Mr Renzi, conceded defeat less than an hour after polls closed.

Mr Giachetti said he had called Ms Raggi to wish her luck. Dozens of people, including local politicians from the Democrats, right-wing parties and other political forces, have been implicated in corruption probes of city contracts.

As Rome's established parties' power bases imploded, municipal services, especially strike-plagued mass transport, street repairs and waste collection, deteriorated.

"I will work to bring legality and transparency" to Rome's administration, Ms Raggi told supporters. She said "the citizens of Rome won", and pledged that "with us a new era begins".

While Ms Raggi's victory was widely expected, Mr Renzi's clout took a surprise beating in Turin, where incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a Democratic Party veteran, conceded defeat to another female 5-Star candidate, Chiara Appendino.

Mr Fassino blamed his loss on right-wing forces, who, after faring poorly in first-round balloting, joined up with 5-Star supporters to defeat the centre-left Democrats.

Although Mr Renzi had insisted that the local voting would not reflect on his two-year-old national government, the premier has little to cheer about from the run-off results.

His big consolation came in Milan, where he had heavily backed Giuseppe Sala, who appeared set for a close victory over his centre-right challenger, Stefano Parisi. Mr Sala had successfully managed Milan's Expo event, a point of pride for Mr Renzi.

Another embarrassment for Mr Renzi could be the new Rome's mayor's opposition to the city's bid to host the Olympics in 2024. The PM has campaigned for the Italian capital to clinch the bid, but Ms Raggi has insisted that until corruption is cleansed from Rome's City Hall machinery, construction and other preparations for the Games risk inviting more kickbacks and payoffs.

Press Association

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