Center-left candidate claims victory in Rome's mayoral vote

ROME (AP) — Roberto Gualtieri, a former finance minister from Italy’s Democratic Party, claimed victory Monday in Rome’s mayoral election after partial results indicated he had a wide advantage over his right-wing challenger.

Partial results, according to the Interior Ministry, indicated Gualtieri would clinch about 60% of the vote, with Enrico Michetti, a novice politician who specializes in administrative law, taking the remaining 40%. Michetti had been hand-picked by the leader of a far-right party with neo-fascist roots as its choice to lead the problem-plagued Italian capital.

A beaming Gualtieri told supporters after polls closed Monday on the second day of voting that he will “work with all my energy” to make Rome deserve the reputation of “a great European capital.”

Gualtieri faces a Herculean task of cleaning up a city where trash and recycling collection is often inadequate, many public buses have caught fire and elevator maintenance has put key subway stations out of service for about a year.

The current populist 5-Star Movement mayor, Virginia Raggi, was eliminated in first-round voting two weeks ago. On Monday she pledged to help Gualtieri in his efforts to turn around the city.

Gualtieri had served as minister of finance and economy in former Premier Giuseppe Conte’s short-lived center-left government.

In the northern city of Turin, nearly complete returns showed that another center-left mayoral candidate, Stefano Lo Russo, was headed to a comfortable victory over a center-right challenger. Outgoing Mayor Chiara Appendino of the 5-Stars had declined to run for a second-term.

During the campaign, Michetti faced allegations of antisemitism after written remarks by him about the Holocaust surfaced. Michetti had said other genocides don’t get as much attention as the Holocaust because they aren’t associated with banking powers. After an outcry from Italy’s tiny Jewish community and others, Michetti apologized for hurting the sensibilities of Jews.

High-profile successes by the 5-Stars in Italy’s 2016 mayoral elections helped the movement build momentum for 2018 national election, which saw them become Parliament’s largest party.

Italy’s next national election is due in 2023.