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An historic election in Rome with the 5 Star candidate as front runner to be mayor

by Andrea Marini

The mayoral election in Rome on June 5 will undoubtedly be remembered for a long time.

For the first time since 1994 the capital of Italy could be run by a political group often described as populist and anti-establishment: the Five Star Movement. Virginia Raggi , the 37-year-old lawyer running for mayor of Rome as the movement’s candidate, is still well ahead in the polls with more than a quarter of likely voters determined to give her their preference.

The other mainstream parties, the centre-left and the centre-right, are virtually out of the race.

Ignazio Marino, the former Mayor coming from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), was forced to leave office on October 31 2015 by his own party amid a row over tens of thousands of euros in expenses which he charged to the city.

Just a year earlier, the Mafia Capitale investigation uncovered an alleged criminal organization that investigators believe was aimed at influencing the awarding of contracts thanks to a well ramified network of “friendly” politicians, both from the centre-right and the centre-left. It is a fact that in the last several years Rome has been increasingly perceived as neglected by authorities.

According to the 2015 Eurobarometer survey, only 30% of Roman citizens are satisfied with the quality of public transport in the city (in the 2009 Eurobarometer survey they were 35% of the total). In comparison in London citizens satisfied with the quality of public trasportation stand at 86%, in Paris at 79% and in Madrid at 72%. Only 20% of citizens interviewed in Rome are satisfied with the state of streets and buildings (74% in London, 70% in Paris and 48% in Madrid). They were 47% in 2009.

Meanwhile, the enormous administrative machine of Rome has become more and more complex to manage: over 25,000 direct employees (but there are also 37,000 additional employees in the companies controlled by the city of Rome), 30 macroareas and departments, plus 15 municipalities each with its own council elected by the citizens.

The PD's candidate is Roberto Giachetti, vice president of the Chamber of Deputies and a close friend of Renzi’s. Left Ecology Freedom, the left wing of the alliance which supported the former mayor Marino's administration, this time around has decided to present its own candidate: member of the Chamber of Deputies Stefano Fassina. According to the latest polls, Fassina could obtain 7% of votes, while Giachetti just 20%.

The centre-right has exploded into two pieces. Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's former prime minister and head of conservative party Forza Italia, supports Alfio Marchini, an independent entrepreneur backed also by centrist parties. Giorgia Meloni, who leads the nationalist party Brothers of Italy, has the backing of Matteo Salvini, the leader of the rightwing formation, Northern League. The implosion of the centre-right coalition in Rome was deeply influenced by the clash between Berlusconi and Salvini over who should be number 1 at national level. According to the latest polls, Meloni and Marchini are on the same level and could both receive 20% of votes.

Under the local electoral system, if no candidate receives at least 50% of votes, the top two candidates go to a second round after two weeks. There are three scenarios: a second round between Raggi and Giachetti, a second round between Raggi and Meloni or between Raggi and Marchini. The polls give Raggi the final win in a second round against Giachetti or Meloni. Marchini is the one who has a fighting chance to win against Raggi, as he could get votes both from centre-left and centre-right.

This would be a debacle with big nationwide consequences for Renzi’s party, the PD, if it even failed to reach the second round.