Rome Elects First Female Mayor

Virginia Raggi
Virginia Raggi in Rome on May 19. The populist candidate was elected the Italian capital city's first female mayor this weekend. Tony Gentile/Reuters

Virginia Raggi will become Rome's first female mayor in 3,000 years, promising to "restore legality and transparency" to the city's institutions. The election of the anti-establishment, populist Five Star Movement (M5S) candidate is a setback for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which saw its candidates win in Milan and Bologna but not in the capital. The city has not had a mayor since October, when the PD's Ignazio Marino resigned over an expenses scandal.

Claiming 67 percent of the vote across the city's 120 councils, the 37-year-old lawyer's victory is a landmark, but she has a lot to contend with. Rome's widespread political corruption, the rise of the mafia and mounting debts at an estimated £10bn ($15bn), do not make Raggi's job an easy one. However, the anti-establishment, populist Five Star Movement (M5S) politician said she is ready for the challenge.

"This is a historic moment and a turning point," she told supporters in the early hours of Monday morning. "For the first time Rome has a woman mayor, in a time in which equal opportunities are a chimera. I will be a mayor for all Romans."

In her campaign Raggi listed her priorities as establishing a proper rubbish collection system, improving the public transport network and making a concerted effort to fight against corruption and organized crime . She also wants to take on the Catholic church, pursuing claims that the Vatican failed to pay millions of pounds worth of taxes.

The M5S, led by comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo who founded the party in 2009, won in 19 out of 20 towns and cities where its candidates made it to the run-offs for mayor. The party's victory in Turin, a centre-left stronghold, was a surprise. The party now hopes to fare well in the May 2018 Italian general election, potentially at the expense of the PD.