ROME – An anti-establishment newcomer, capitalizing on anger over political corruption and deteriorating city services, trounced Premier Matteo Renzi's candidate in Rome's mayoral runoff Sunday to become the first woman to head City Hall in the Italian capital.
With more than 80 percent of ballots counted from Sunday's election, Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star Movement led by a 2-to-1 margin. Her rival, Democrat Roberto Giachetti, who was backed by Renzi, conceded defeat less than an hour after polls closed.
Giachetti said he had called Raggi to wish her luck. Dozens of people, including local politicians from the Democrats, right-wing parties and other political forces, have been implicated in corruption probes of city contracts.
While Rome's established parties' power bases imploded, municipal services, especially strike-plagued mass transit, street repairs and trash collection, deteriorated to Romans' exasperation.
"I will work to bring legality and transparency" to Rome's administration, Raggi told supporters early Monday. Declaring that "the citizens of Rome won," she also pledged that "with us a new era begins."
While Raggi's victory was widely expected, Renzi's clout took a surprise beating in Turin, where incumbent Mayor Piero Fassino, a Democratic Party veteran, conceded defeat to another female 5-Star candidate, Chiara Appendino.
Fassino blamed his loss on right-wing forces, who, after faring poorly in the first-round balloting, joined up with 5-Star supporters to defeat the center-left Democrats.
Although Renzi had insisted that the local voting would not reflect on his two-year-old national government, the premier has little to cheer about from the runoff results. Renzi had no immediate comment early Monday.
His big consolation came in Milan, where he had heavily backed Giuseppe Sala, who appeared headed to a close victory over his center-right challenger, Stefano Parisi. Sala had successfully managed Milan's Expo event, a point of pride for Renzi.
Another embarrassment for Renzi could be the new Rome's mayor's opposition to the city's bid to host the Olympics in 2024. Renzi has campaigned for the Italian capital to clinch the bid, but Raggi has insisted that until corruption is cleansed from Rome's City Hall machinery, construction and other preparations for the Games risk inviting more kickbacks and payoffs.