Rome votes in mayoral polls dominated by rubbish and boars

Rome (AFP) –

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The people of Rome voted on Sunday to elect a new mayor who will have the daunting task of tackling poor public transport and disastrous rubbish management in the Italian capital, dubbed one of the dirtiest cities in the world.

Across the country from the Eternal City to Milan, Naples and Bologna, voting kicked off late on Monday for municipal elections being closely watched as a bellwether ahead of 2023 general elections.

But in Rome -- one of the world's filthiest cities, according to a ranking last month by the British magazine Time Out -- residents are more concerned with the perennial transport, flooding, waste and pothole woes.

Rubbish management is so bad that wild boars are regularly seen wandering in residential areas, attracted by the pile-up of waste.

Rome's current mayor Virginia Raggi has won praise for taking on the city's fierce new mafia
Rome's current mayor Virginia Raggi has won praise for taking on the city's fierce new mafia ANDREAS SOLARO AFP

In the picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere, where bins often overflow onto the cobblestones, 60-year-old resident Tiziana De Silvestro, out walking her dog, said the root of the problem was rubbish left overnight outside bars and restaurants.

"Now the city is full of animals, crows, seagulls, not to mention mice and cockroaches," she said.

- 'Tomorrow cholera' -

Rome's current mayor, Virginia Raggi from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), has won praise for taking on the city's fierce new mafia, the Casamonica family of loan sharks and drug traffickers.

But her widely mocked plans to use sheep as lawnmowers and bees to combat pollution -- while rotting refuse piles up next to playgrounds, buses spontaneously combust in the heat and weeds run wild -- may cost her dearly.

Some 12 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in Italy's mayoral elections
Some 12 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in Italy's mayoral elections Alberto PIZZOLI AFP/File

The candidate of the right-wing alliance, Nicola Michetti, is likely to pocket the most votes thanks to a split on the left, according to the last polls published before a pre-election blackout.

But he is not predicted to garner more than the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off in two weeks -- and polls say he may then lose in round two to the Democratic Party's Roberto Gualtieri, a former economy minister.

Michetti, a 55-year-old lawyer, warns: "Today we have seagulls and boars, tomorrow it could be cholera."

His champion is the head of far-right Brothers of Italy party Giorgia Meloni, who said Rome has become an international joke.

Gualtieri and rival centre-left candidate Carlo Calenda, meanwhile, have called for round tables with experts to tackle the problem of the wild boars.

Volunteers sick of the filth have begun in recent years to organise periodic cleaning sessions -- but say the city should do its part
Volunteers sick of the filth have begun in recent years to organise periodic cleaning sessions -- but say the city should do its part Vincenzo PINTO AFP/File

Some 12 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in the elections, which are being held not only in the country's largest cities but in more than 1,000 smaller centres, including Morterone in Lombardy, which has just 33 inhabitants.

By midday on Sunday, turnout stood at 13 percent nationally and 11.83 percent in Rome.