The Romans choose to run a chaotic city from a crowded field

The Romans choose to run a chaotic city from a crowded field
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The Romans choose to run a chaotic city from a crowded field

The Romans choose to run a chaotic city from a crowded field

Rome – In the five years since Virginia Raggi became mayor, Rome has had some problems. Garbage has accumulated on the sidewalks, attracting flocks of sea eagles and crows. The pothole epidemic has rattled the city’s streets. Already unreliable public buses have started to catch fire. And the city’s Christmas tree looked so gloomy that the Romans nicknamed it “Mangi”.

Now, in the days leading up to the election of Rome’s mayor on Sunday, the city’s newspapers, frustrated residents and a long list of candidates to replace Ms. Raggi have attacked her over what they say is how much. Gone Rude: Looting Packets of Wild Boar. His critics refer to him as “Ruggi’s pigs” while swapping the viral video of pigs in a Roman dumpster.

“If we want to build a zoo, we are on a good track,” Carlo Calenda, one of the candidates fighting against Ms. Raggi, said on Italian television.

Ms Raggi’s perceived weakness has attracted 21 opponents across the political spectrum. The main challengers in his re-election bid include a conservative lawyer and two centre-left politicians with national profiles. But the fringe characters, including “Dr. Seduction” and the gladiator re-actor who calls himself “Nero”, have also found a chance to replace Ms. Raggi, who is badly behind in the polls.

Local Italian elections, especially in major cities, are often considered bellwethers for the wider national mood. Ms. Raggi’s landslide victory in 2016 as a candidate of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement presaged Five Star’s success in the 2018 national elections.

But Five Star’s popularity has waned, and Italy is enjoying a rare period of political stability under an independent prime minister, Mario Draghi, this time setting aside Rome’s election of such widespread influence. Winning here is still seen as the strength of the national parties, but this time municipal issues – traffic, garbage and unwanted wildlife – have come to the fore.

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It is unlikely either candidate will win a majority vote when voting closes on Monday, triggering another round of voting and possibly weeks of horse-drawing that could turn Ms. Raggi into a power broker .

But she is not accepting anything and in the last days she has campaigned fiercely. She blames the large area of ​​Lazio, which includes Rome and is run by the centre-left Democratic Party, for all trash and invasive species. After a term in the city council of Rome, and after pledge, according to the basic rules of his party, that he Never more than two terms in public office, Ms Raggi now argues that running the city for a full five years is not enough time to replace Rome.

A full decade, she says, will do the trick.

The Romans don’t seem so sure. The latest polls favor Enrico Michetti, a lawyer and last-minute candidate backed by several centre-right parties and far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, who is Roman and has a significant base. Mr Michetti has drawn attention for baffling the news media (Italian journalists call him “Houdini”) and speaking extensively about ancient Rome when asked about the problems of modern times.

“When Caesar died, it looked like everything was over,” said Mr. Michetti during a rare appearance at an election debate in July when asked about his view of Rome’s future . “But then Caesar Octavian Augustus centered the institutions.”

In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr Michetti defended his talk about Rome’s glory days, which he described as a time of civic-minded rule. “Rome would never have built the pyramids; Too much effort in the interest of one person,” he said. “Instead, Rome built bridges, roads, aqueducts, theaters—anything for the collective good.”

Behind Michetti is Roberto Gualtieri, the candidate of the centre-left Democratic Party. Mr Gualtieri was Italy’s Minister of Economy and Finance from 2019 until the beginning of this year, and before that, he was the chairman of the Committee on Economic Affairs in the European Parliament. A historian who favors the gray suit has emphasized her competence and expertise, critics who contrast Ms Raggi’s ineptitude.

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“Rome may be reborn,” he said in a telephone interview, “after these years of poor administration.”

Mr. Gualtieri has occasionally campaigned with a guitar to liven things up, on the promise to turn Rome, where it often takes almost forever to do anything, into a “15-minute town” where residents Quick access to any service.

But in a familiar dynamic in Italian politics, the centre-left vote is divided. One of Mr Gualtieri’s rivals is Mr Calenda, who was once the country’s economic development minister and who now sits in the European Parliament. A former member of the Democratic Party, Mr. Calenda broke away from the party to oppose an alliance with his former foe, Five Star, whom he detests.

Mr. Calenda, in his criticism of Ms. Raggi, called her administration “an apocalypse” and “a cosmic disaster”, and seized on Rome’s reputation as an unruly city to argue that there was only a perfect one like hers. Only the manager can do this. Get it under control.

He said he would spend the first year and a half of his administration fixing the “decoration” of Rome’s streets, focusing on basic services like garbage removal and tree care to prevent accidental branches falling on cars.

He also dismissed speculation from political insiders that, if necessary, he would forge an alliance with Mr. “I’ve never heard him say anything wise, even nothing out of the ordinary,” Mr. Calenda said of him.

Lorenzo Di Sio, director of the Italian Center of Electoral Studies, said the number of candidates is running out, making it difficult to call the election.

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Many Romans have become so accustomed to blaming Ms. Raggi’s incompetence for the city’s troubles that her name – “La Raggi,” he says – has become a shorthand for all that is wrong with the city.

But many Romans were once fascinated by Ms. Raggi, who was the first woman to hold office and, at 37, took over as Rome’s youngest mayor. She campaigned on a promise to break the city’s special interests and make it work for all, an appeal that worked particularly well in the city’s outermost and least affluent neighborhoods.

Many of those voters remain undecided, and candidates such as Mr. Michetti and Mr. Calenda, who visited every Roman neighborhood, tried to woo them. But even in this late hour, Ms. Raggi’s supporters are hopeful that they will eventually come to her home.

On Friday morning, a small group of supporters joined Ms Raggi at a neighborhood market where the mayor inaugurated a municipal food bank for residents struggling to make a living. It is the fourth such center to open in Rome since May 2020, a pet project of the mayor, as the number of people needing aid during the pandemic soars.

She reached for applause and made some remarks. His supporters complained that despite the mayor opening kindergartens and gyms and having better parks in the neighborhood, “all the people he talks about are pigs.”

But as Ms. Raggi left, another woman complained to her about how dirty their street had become. The mayor, she said, was a furious taxpayer to answer.

Ms Raggi blamed corrupt transport and sanitation agencies for the problems. The previous administration had flushed the dirt down the rug, she said, “but when you lift it, mounds of mud emerge.”

“Brava, Virginia!” shouted a supporter.

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