• Run-off vote likely with Giachetti of Renzi’s Democratic Party
  • Euroskeptic candidate has as much as 38% of vote, poll says

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement’s Virginia Raggi is poised to become Rome’s first female mayor, in a blow for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic party, according to an exit poll.

Raggi had 34 to 38 percent of the vote, against 20 to 24 percent for her closest rival, Roberto Giachetti of Renzi’s PD, according to the poll conducted by IPR Marketing and the Piepoli Institute for RAI state TV. If results confirm the findings, Raggi and Giachetti would fight a run-off contest on June 19. The first projections of results are due overnight.

Thirteen million voters were called to the polls on June 5 and 19 in cities including Milan, Naples and Turin. A victory in Rome would hand the Euroskeptics of M5S their biggest win yet and deal a blow to Renzi’s efforts to convince Italians he can make good on his pledge to end years of stagnation. PD candidates Giuseppe Sala and Piero Fassino were in the lead in Milan and Turin respectively, according to the exit poll. 

Local government has become fertile ground for Europe’s populists. In Germany, the anti-euro Alternative for Germany has won seats in eight of the country’s 16 state assemblies three years after it was set up. In France, the National Front has won control of several towns while Podemos runs Spain’s two biggest cities.

Those movements are all attracting voters “who want to take back control of their lives,” Raggi said in an interview this week.

Lead Narrows

The next general election is due by early 2018. While Renzi’s PD is still the most popular party more than two years after he took office, its lead is narrowing. An opinion poll by the Ixe Institute last month credited the PD with 30.5 percent of the vote, compared with the 40.8 percent it won in the 2014 European election. M5S received 28.1 percent while the anti-immigration Northern League had 14.8 percent.

In the Italian capital, the chaos of traffic, public transport and rubbish collection, as well as corruption and abysmal administration, fueled a backlash against anyone in power. Raggi wants to overhaul the administration, institute tight checks on public contracts, slap more fines on drivers who double-park, buy hybrid electric buses, and deploy ticket collectors. More than a quarter of passengers ride buses in Rome without paying the fare.

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