Millions of people in Italy started voting for new mayors on Sunday, including in Rome and Milan, in an election widely seen as a test of political alliances before voting nationwide in just over a year.
The two voting days end on Monday and the first results are expected after that. But many voters will have to wait two weeks to find out who will be their mayor.
The re-elections will be held from October 17-18 in municipalities with more than 15,000 people between the two biggest voters if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
Nearly all mayoral races in major cities, including Rome, Turin, Naples and Bologna, are expected to end. Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala has told supporters he thinks they can win enough votes to give him another five-year term without a second round.
About 12 million people, or about 20 percent of the Italian population, are eligible to vote in the mayoral races.
Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, a prominent populist figure of the 5 Star Movement, has fought an uphill battle to retain her office. Polls indicated that the likely top two voters in the field of 22 candidates will be a center-left Democratic and a right-wing candidate backed by anti-migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and far-right leader Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party with neo-fascist roots.
When Raggi took over the helm of the city in 2016, she inherited a mess, and many of the Italian capital’s problems remain. Piles of uncollected trash still ravaged the city, several subway stations were closed for maintenance for months, and aging buses often broke down on their routes, sometimes on fire, during her tenure.
Salvini and Meloni, officially allies in a right-wing alliance, have been wary of measuring each other, as both have ambitions to become Italy’s prime minister. Parliamentary elections will be held in spring 2023, but both leaders have pushed for earlier elections.
The Five Star Movement, currently Parliament’s largest party, has faced internal bickering.
How the mayor’s campaign alliances fare at this month’s municipal races will be dissected as a possible indication of Italians’ sentiment the next time they vote for national leadership.
Voters in southern Calabria, in the “toe” of the Italian peninsula, are also electing a governor, replacing someone who died of cancer while in office last year.