ROME (AP) — Romans on Monday waited to learn who will be their next mayor of their problem-plagued city, as ballots were counted from a runoff election that pitted a novice politician backed by a far-right leader against a former finance minister who ran on a center-left ticket.
After polls closed at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) first substantial projections, followed by partial results, were expected by early evening.
The top vote-getters in the first round of balloting two weeks earlier were Enrico Michetti, a novice politician promoted by Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party has neo-fascist roots, and Roberto Gualtieri, a Democrat Party leader who served in former Premier Giuseppe Conte's short-lived center-left government.
Awaiting whoever wins is a Herculean task of cleaning up a city where trash and recycling collection is so inadequate streets and sidewalks are often choked with piles of garbage, public buses not rarely catch fire on their routes, elevator maintenance has put some key subway stations out of service for about a year and pothole-pocked streets challenge scooter riders and pedestrians.
The current mayor, Virginia Raggi, a prominent figure in the 5-Star Movement, which is Parliament's largest party, failed to earn a runoff slot after winning less than 20% of the vote in the first round of balloting in early October.
Runoffs are also taking place in some 65 towns and smaller cities, including Turin, a northern city where another important 5-Star figure, Chiara Appendino declined to run for a second-term as mayor, and the populist candidate failed to make it to the runoff.
Turnout in Rome was running low, a possible indication that Romans are resigned to the possibility that whoever is mayor from whatever political stripe won't significantly turn around the city's fortunes.
Before Raggi, a center-left surgeon-turned politician, and before him, a far-right politician, led City Hall adminstrations struggling to heal finances and marred by patronage scandals. Raggi herself saw a heavy turnover of commissioners, complicating efforts to solve Rome's problems.
During the current campaign, Michetti, a lawyer specializing in administrative law, had to respond to allegations of anti-Semitism after written remarks by him about the Holocaust surfaced. Michetti had said other genocides don’t get as much attention as the Holocaust because they aren’t associated with banking powers. After an outcry from Italy’s tiny Jewish community and others, Michetti apologized for hurting the sensibilities of Jews.
High-profile successes by the 5 Stars in 2016 mayoral elections helped the movement build momentum for 2018 national elections, which saw them triumph in becoming Parliament’s largest party.
Italy’s next national election is due in 2023.
The outcome of mayoral races doesn't have a direct bearing on national politics. But leaders of center-left and center-right forces, whose candidates carried the day in the first round of municipal voting, will be studying the results as a test of possible campaign alliances.
© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.