After two and a half millennia of being ruled by men, Rome is under female management.
On Sunday, Virginia Raggi was elected as the Italian capital’s first female mayor, sweeping into city hall on the ticket of the populist Five Star movement (M5S) with the backing of two-thirds of voters.
Ms Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer and local councillor, swept into City Hall with two-thirds of the votes cast in a run-off contest with Roberto Giachetti of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
“For the first time, Rome has a female mayor in an age where equality of opportunity remains a mirage,” Ms Raggi said in a typically coolly delivered victory speech.
“I will be a mayor for all Romans. I will restore legality and transparency to the city’s institutions after 20 years of poor governance. With us, a new era is opening.”
The anti-establishment M5S also claimed control of the northern city of Turin, where another woman, Chiara Appendino, 31, ousted the sitting PD mayor with the help of backing from the far-right Northern League.
In Turin, Ms Appendino struck a similar note.
“We have made history,” she said. “This was not a protest vote, it was about pride and change.”
Ms Raggi, who was a complete unknown only a few months ago, had been widely expected to claim the keys to Rome’s Michelangelo-designed City Hall.
But the margin of her victory exceeded even the most ambitious expectations of a movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo only seven years ago.
The M5S party has since established itself as the major opposition force in Italian politics, and analysts say victory in Rome will give it a platform to mount a challenge against Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in national elections due in 2018.
Ms Raggi successfully tapped into widespread anger among voters over the state of the capital’s public transport and other services, widely seen as having been undermined by years of sleaze in the municipal administration.
“It’s time to change Rome,” was the battle cry of her campaign.
Her cause in the capital was helped by the ousting of her predecessor, the PD’s Ignazio Marino, over an expenses issue and a much bigger scandal over organised crime’s infiltration of the city administration.
In what is known as the Mafia Capitale case, dozens of local businessmen, officials and politicians are currently on trial for their involvement in a criminal network that ripped off the city to the tune of tens — if not hundreds — of millions of euros.
(Article first appeared in ABC)