Right and left parties fight for Rome

2013-05-24 12:11
Italian showman Beppe Grillo waves to supporters during an election rally in Piazza Magione. (Marcello Paternostro, AFP)

Italian showman Beppe Grillo waves to supporters during an election rally in Piazza Magione. (Marcello Paternostro, AFP)

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Rome - Local elections in hundreds of towns across Italy this weekend will test the popularity of the main right and left forces in the new grand coalition led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta, as well as an anti-establishment party that is losing verve.

The fiercest battle is for the control of Rome, with Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party slugging it out against Letta's Democratic Party to lead a city plagued with social woes, public transport problems and a waste disposal crisis.

Incumbent mayor Gianni Alemanno faces off against Democratic Party candidate Ignazio Marino, a former surgeon who is two points ahead with 35% of the vote, according to the most recent opinion polls.

Marino has promised to give 10 000 unemployed young people who follow job training courses a €500 a month allowance and to drastically improve the transport system by expanding the tram and metro network.

Marino also says he will give the Eternal City a more transparent system of financial management, accusing his predecessor of hiding the accounts and the scale of the city's debt problem.

The third major candidate is Marcello De Vito of the Five Star Movement, a protest party that amazed observers in Italy and beyond by winning a quarter of the national vote in a February general election in the recession-stricken country.

'Non-negotiable principles'

The party, led by fiery former comedian Beppe Grillo, has been criticised by supporters for not supporting the Democratic Party after the elections, leading to a two-month deadlock that was only resolved with an uneasy coalition deal.

The Five Star Movement has called for the abolition of the many perks traditionally enjoyed by Italian politicians, as well as more eco-friendly policies and an end to hugely unpopular austerity measures imposed by the previous government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

The most likely outcome in Rome is a second round run-off which would take place on June 9 and 10.

Rome was governed by the left for nearly 20 years between 1989 and 2008 before the victory of Alemanno, a former neo-fascist.

Alemanno complains of a "disastrous legacy" from his predecessors, saying the city had a €12bn deficit when he came to power.

He says he has "put the accounts back in order" and unblocked €791 in payments owed to private businesses by the public sector.

Alemanno says he has increased tourism in the city and expelled 61 000 Roma people from the capital, saying national laws should be stricter.

He also claims credit for the emergence of the Rome Opera as a world-class musical venue that wants to rival La Scala in Milan and has hired maestro Riccardo Muti as its musical director.

Keen to court Catholic voters, Alemanno has also accused his rival of being too liberal on abortion and euthanasia, saying that family values were "non-negotiable principles".

Millions of Italians will vote in 565 local authorities on Sunday and Monday, including the cities of Ancona, Brescia, Pisa and Siena.

Read more on:    silvio berlusconi  |  italy

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