Rome elected its first female mayor in local elections on Sunday, a victory that will provide the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement with a platform to pursue its policies and momentum its leaders believe will turn it into Italy's main opposition force.
Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer and local councilor, was widely expected to win in the capital, but the 62 to 66 percent support predicted by exit polls signaled a squashing defeat for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party (PD).
The PD looked set to secure the country's financial capital, Milan, by a slim margin, but 5-Star was predicted to win in Turin, a traditional bastion of PD support. In the country's third largest city, Naples, the independent former magistrate Luigi de Magistris was heading to victory over a center-right opponent. The PD maintained control of Bologna.
Setback for Renzi
The election results are a setback for Renzi, coming just four months ahead of a referendum on constitutional reforms on which he has staked his political future. The prime minister has sought to downplay the local elections and their impact on national politics.
Raggi campaigned against corruption and poor services in the capital, where the city administration has been ensnarled in several scandals.
Dozens of former city officials and business leaders have been on trial since last November in a case known as "Mafia Capitale." They are accused of corruption and other behavior that has led to millions of euros being removed from the administration.
Some 8.6 million people were eligible to vote in Sunday's runoff elections. The votes were held in 126 towns and cities where no candidate had secured a majority of the vote in the first round of polling on June 5. (DW)