Rome mayoral candidate Virginia Raggi

Meet Virginia Raggi, The Likely First Female Mayor of Rome

Virginia Raggi is projected to become the first female mayor of Rome, Italy, after the run-off election takes place on June 19, an outcome that could have ramifications for the entire country.

Raggi led the June 5 first round of the multi-candidate election with 35 percent of the vote in the Eternal City. With no candidate breaking 50 percent, she and the second-place finisher (who got about 25 percent) from the Italian prime minister’s center-left party, will meet head to head on June 19.

If populist Raggi prevails and becomes Rome’s first female mayor, it will be seen as a setback for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party and a possible precursor to a national constitutional reform referendum in October as well as the general election on tap for no later than June 2018 (or possibly sooner if Renzi’s referendum fails and/or his coalition splinters).

Matteo Renzi has indicated he will step down if the October referendum about restructuring/streamlining parliament is voted down by the people.

The day after the first Rome mayor vote, Raggi declared that “This is a historic moment. Romans demonstrated they trust our movement, which has an earnest and transparent government agenda…The wind is changing,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Government corruption and inefficiency are the major issues in the campaign.

According to Deutsche Welle, the city is a hot mess that Virginia Raggi or whoever wins will have to come to grips with promptly. “As any Roman inhabitant can tell you, the city is a mess: core services such as public transit (known as ATAC ) are woefully unreliable, garbage collection (AMA) infrequent. Outside the picturesque historic center lie landmines of garbage, dead trees and crumbling sidewalks and roads.”

Virginia Raggi is the Rome standard-bearer for Italy’s rapidly growing Five Star Movement (M5S), a populist, anti-establishment party founded by comedian Beppe Grillo that is emerging as the country’s main opposition party. Five Star also did well in municipal elections in other Italian cities in first round voting.

The Five Star Movement is among several populist and Euroskeptic parties (i.e., generally opposed to European Union regulations) gaining traction across that continent in a profound rejection of business-as-usual career politicians.

Populism (which often de-emphasizes ideology in favor of a more pragmatic approach) and anti-establishment feelings have also given rise to presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.

“Losing the city to the populist Five Star Movement, which has called for a referendum on whether Italy should stay with the euro or revert to the lire, would be a significant defeat for the prime minister and his centre-left party,” the London Telegraph noted about round two of the Rome mayoral election.

Rome’s previous mayor resigned last October in the midst of scandal.

“Mr Renzi has seen his popularity fall due to public anger over his government’s handling of the migrant crisis, with hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees pouring across the Mediterranean from Libya, and because of a disappointingly slow economic recovery after years of recession and stagnation,” the Telegraph added about the incumbent prime minister.

“Ms. Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer, has promised to fight corruption and bring back Rome’s splendor a year after a wide-reaching scandal exposed criminal infiltration in city bidding contracts,” the New York Times explained.

“Unlike other non-traditional parties which have flourished across Europe since the 2008 financial crisis, the Five Star Movement straddles ideological divides, focusing its anger on rampant graft in Italy more than austerity or immigration,” the Guardian detailed.

Bepe Grillo’s Euroskeptic ally Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) is the political leader credited with forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to reluctantly go forward with the Brexit vote in Britain now scheduled for June 23.

“In the Italian capital, the chaos of traffic, public transport and rubbish collection, as well as corruption and abysmal administration, fueled a backlash against anyone in power. [Virginia] Raggi wants to overhaul the local government, institute tight checks on public contracts, slap more fines on drivers who double-park, buy hybrid electric buses, and deploy ticket collectors,” Bloomberg detailed.

[Photo by Alessandro Di Meo/ANSA via AP]