Millions of people in Italy began voting for new mayors on Sunday, notably in Rome and Milan, in an election widely seen as a test of political alliances ahead of a nationwide poll in just over a year.
The two voting days end on Monday and the first results are expected afterwards. But many voters will have to wait two weeks to find out who their mayor will be.
The second round will take place from October 17 to 18 in municipalities with more than 15,000 people between the first two voters if no candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote.
Almost all mayoral races in the larger cities, including Rome, Turin, Naples and Bologna, should see runoff. Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala has told supporters he believes they could win enough votes to give him another five-year term without a second round.
Around 12 million people, or around 20% of the Italian population, have the right to vote in municipal elections.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, a prominent populist figure in the 5 Star Movement, has fought an uphill battle to keep her post. Opinion polls have indicated that the two best likely voters in the field of the 22 candidates will be a center-left Democratic candidate and a right-wing candidate backed by Anti-Migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and the extreme leader. right Giorgia Meloni and her Feast of the Brothers of Italy with neo-fascist roots.
When Raggi took over as head of the city in 2016, she inherited a mess and many of the Italian capital’s problems persist. Piles of uncollected garbage again ravaged the city, several metro stations were closed for months for maintenance, and aging buses often broke down on their routes, sometimes catching fire, during his tenure.
In addition to voting, Raggi inspected the site of a fire on Sunday morning that damaged a bridge spanning the Tiber and a colony of riverside shacks occupied by homeless people, another illustration of Rome’s chronic problems.
Salvini and Meloni, although officially right-wing allies, have measured themselves cautiously, as both have the ambition to be Italian prime minister. Legislative elections are slated for early 2023, but the two leaders pushed to vote earlier.
The 5 Star Movement, currently the largest party in Parliament, has suffered internal strife. Its newly elected leader, former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has tried to heal the divisions, has strongly supported Raggi and has pushed back the Democratic Party’s overtures to support the Democrat who presents himself as the race of Rome.
Democrats are likely to need an alliance with the Movement to counter the growing popularity of right-wing forces in national elections. After the national elections, alliances will be crucial in forming a government, as in Italy’s fractured political spectrum, no party can count on a significant likelihood of governing alone.
So how the mayors’ campaign alliances are doing in this month’s municipal races will be dissected as a possible indication of how Italians feel when they next vote for national leadership.
“The competition (and the barometer) of the leaders” of the leaders of political parties fighting for the advantage, said the title of Corriere della Sera on the vote.
Salvini’s League is a member of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s unity government coalition, formed earlier this year to lead the country through the COVID-19 pandemic. Meloni was the only major leader to refuse to join the unusual coalition, which includes technocrats as well as ministers from left, centrist, right-wing and populist parties.
Since the triumph of the 5 stars in the last legislative elections, in 2018, the popularity of the Movement has since fallen in the polls of the governors and in the opinion polls.
Voters in southern Calabria, in the “tip” of the Italian peninsula, are also electing a governor, replacing one who died of cancer while in office last year.