ROME, (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was trounced by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement in local elections in Rome and Turin yesterday, clouding his chances of winning a do-or-die referendum in October.
The result represented a major breakthrough for 5-Star, which feeds off popular anger over widespread corruption, with the party’s Virginia Raggi making history by becoming the first woman mayor in the Italian capital.
“A new era is beginning with us,” said Raggi, who won 67 percent of the vote in the run-off ballot. “We’ll work to bring back legality and transparency to the city’s institutions.”
As a consolation for Renzi, his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) held on to power in Italy’s financial capital Milan and in the northern city of Bologna, beating more traditional, centre-right candidates in both places.
Renzi has said he would not step down whatever the results yesterday. Instead, he has pinned his future on the referendum on his constitutional reform that, he says, will bring stability to Italy and end its tradition of revolving-door governments.
But the losses in Rome and Turin suggest he might struggle to rally the nation behind him, with opposition parties lined up to reject his reform and even his own PD divided over the issue.
The prime minister took office in 2014 promising to revitalise Italy, but he has struggled to boost economic growth and create jobs after years of stagnation. He has also been hurt by repeated scandals in the banking sector.
Party bigwigs stayed off the screens last night as they tried to digest the results.
The PD’s defeat in Rome had been expected after widespread criticism of its management of the city over the past three years, with its mayor forced to resign in 2015 in a scandal over his expenses.
But the loss in Turin, a centre-left stronghold and home of carmaker Fiat,