Rome , Italy (AAP) – Voters in the Italian capital went to the polls Sunday with all signs indicating that they will elect Virginia Raggi as the first female mayor of the Eternal City.
Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer and local councillor, has leapt from anonymity to become one of the best-known faces in Italian politics in the space of only a few months on the campaign trail.
The telegenic brunette, whose victory would be a blow for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, is the rising star of the populist Five Star movement (M5S), the anti-establishment party founded by comedian Beppe Grillo.
More than nine million voters are eligible to take part in Sunday´s second round election in 126 communes, including Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin and Bologna.
“It´s a very special day for us, we finally have the chance to have somebody new who can change things,” Aldo, a 72-year-old pensioner, told AFP shortly after casting his ballot for the Five Star movement at a primary school in the Trastevere district of Rome.
“All the others have failed, we hope that they will succeed,” he added.
All eyes are on Five Star which has emerged as the best-supported opposition to the center-left Democratic Party (PD)-led coalition of Renzi, and the stakes are extremely high for a movement that was only founded in 2009.
With the ebullient Renzi´s star waning slightly, success in Rome could provide a platform for a tilt at national power in general elections due in 2018.
The PD also faces defeat in Italy´s financial capital Milan and a tough challenge in Turin.
“We are witnessing a historic moment,” Raggi said after the first round of voting on June 5, from which she emerged with 35 percent of the vote, well ahead of her run-off second-placed rival, Roberto Giachetti (24 percent).
It was a particularly remarkable achievement for a party with a very limited organisational apparatus and also for a woman who only entered politics five years ago.
That was a move, she recently told AFP, triggered by the birth of her son Matteo and her determination that he should not grow up in a city beset by the intertwined problems of failing public services and endemic corruption.
Opposition to Italy´s ingrained cronyism and sleaze is the foundation of M5S´s appeal to voters and the Roman electorate have had their fill of those in recent years.