Exit polls in Rome’s mayoral election runoff indicate a clear advantage for the centre-left candidate over a contender from the far-right Brothers of Italy.
Roberto Gualtieri, a former economy minister, was leading with between 59% and 63% of the vote shortly after polling stations closed on Monday, ahead of his rival, Enrico Michetti, who had between 37% and 41%.
Gualtieri appears well set to succeed Virginia Raggi, a politician with the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), as mayor. Raggi was defeated in the first round as voters turned against her over the poor upkeep of the city.
“Thank you to the citizens, I am honoured,” Gualtieri said. “I will be everyone’s mayor.”
Exit polls also showed a strong win for the centre-left in Turin, where Stefano Lo Russo, a Democratic party candidate backed by M5S, had a clear advantage over Poalo Damilano, a contender for the League, Brothers of Italy and Forza Italia coalition. Meanwhile, polls showed the rightwing alliance slightly ahead in the northern city of Trieste.
The apparent victories for the centre-left in Rome and Turin come amid a revival in the fortunes of the Democratic party, whose candidates won outright in Milan, Bologna and Naples in the first ballot on 4 and 5 October.
Michetti, who was backed by Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, had led in the polls in Rome and got the largest share of the vote in the first round, but fell short of the 50% required to win.
His campaign was tarnished last week after he was forced to apologise to Italy’s Jewish community over accusations of antisemitism. In an article written in February last year, Michetti, a lawyer and radio host, said the victims of other genocides didn’t get as much attention as those killed in the Holocaust because they “did not own the banks”.
The article emerged a few days before Italy marked the 78th anniversary of more than 1,000 Rome Jews being deported to Auschwitz on 16 October.
Michetti also glorified ancient Rome during his campaign, saying the city’s role as “capital of the world” needed to be restored. He also said the stiff-armed Roman salute, which has fascist connotations, should be revived because it was more hygienic during Covid-19 times.
Gualtieri will face a huge challenge in managing Rome, a complex city beset by deeply entrenched issues. Raggi was saddled with €13bn (£11bn) in debt when she took the helm.
A recent study of the city’s last five mayors found that most had failed to achieve promises made during their election campaigns.
The loss of Rome is a major blow to M5S, which also lost Turin after Chiara Appendino decided not to seek a second mandate.