Reform-minded Virginia Raggi is the new mayor of Rome, the first female ever to lead the Eternal City government.
A relative newcomer to politics, Raggi, 37, a lawyer and city councilor, is the standard-bearer for Italy’s populist, anti-establishment Five Star Movement (MS5).
She finished at the top in the multi-candidate first round of voting on June 5 (in which no candidate broke 50 percent), and today easily won the runoff against a rival from Prime-Minister Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party (PD) coalition.
PD candidate Roberto Giachetti has conceded defeat to Virginia Raggi in the Rome election, USA TODAY has reported.
“Raggi has won support as Renzi’s PD has been tainted by an expenses scandal involving Rome’s previous mayor, Ignazio Marino. She has pledged to overhaul the city’s Byzantine administration and institute tight checks on public contracts, a key source of corruption,” Bloomberg detailed.
With only about 20 percent of the votes yet to be counted, Raggi already has 67 percent of the vote, NBC News reported.
Founded by Italian comedian Beppe Grillo, the Five Star Movement is among several populist and Euroskeptic parties (i.e., generally opposed to heavy-handed European Union regulations and the euro itself as a common currency) gaining traction across that continent in a profound rejection of business-as-usual career politicians.
Virginia Raggi seemed to send the paparazzi into a frenzy when she showed up to vote today.
Unlike most of those other parties, Five Star steers clear of taking a position on the migrant immigration surge across Europe, and in Raggi’s case, as alluded to above, focusing on Rome’s rampant corruption and mismanagement.
“Yet Five Star owes its extraordinary rise to the same groundswell of discontent that has damaged the authority and appeal of a failed political mainstream. Throughout Europe, voters demoralized by austerity, unemployment, insecurity and the effects of mass immigration have turned to more radical alternatives from the left, the right and unaligned activism,” the International Business Times explained.
Raggi has also publicly opposed the prime minister’s bid for Rome to host the 2024 Olympic Games. “In that sense, a win for Raggi would send a clear message to Renzi: that the everyday problems of life in Rome cannot be neglected in pursuit of grandiose dreams,” the Guardian observed.
Populism (which often de-emphasizes ideology in favor of a more pragmatic approach to governing) and anti-establishment feelings have also given rise to the presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.
Rome is a hot mess, which is why voters have turned to Virginia Raggi, the New York Times contended.
“By all accounts, Italy’s capital is a mess. The transportation system is hobbled and nearly bankrupt. The government administration is bloated. Public works remain unfinished, and streets are filled with potholes. Garbage collection is spotty. Municipal debt has soared to at least 13 billion euros, about $14.6 billion, and could be much higher, even as Romans pay the highest property taxes in Italy…For many, the Five Star Movement — which has made honesty and legality its political calling card — is a way to break with the system that led to the city’s decline.”
“A much bigger scandal, involving alleged Mafia influence in Rome city hall, has fueled Five Star’s rise. It is looking to establish itself as the main opposition party in the 2018 general election,” the BBC noted.
Prime Minister Renzi’s party is expected to suffer another setback in the city of Turin, where Five Star candidate Chiara Appendino is projected to win.
“For the first time Rome has a female mayor in an age where equality of opportunity remains a mirage. 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. With us a new era is opening,” Raggi declared in her victory speech.
“A clear defeat in the local elections would cast a shadow over a key constitutional referendum looming in October, on which Mr. Renzi has staked his political future. He has promised to resign if it fails, which would likely pave the way to early elections next year,” the Wall Street Journal elucidated about the long-term implications of the Raggi election victory in Rome.
It’s possible that Virginia Raggi’s landslide win as mayor of Rome on the Euroskeptic Five-Star ticket may also give a boost to the leave campaign in Thursday’s Brexit vote in the United Kingdom.
[Photoby Fabio Frustac/AP]