Rome votes in mayoral election dominated by rubbish and wild boars

The people of Rome voted on Sunday to elect a new mayor who will have the daunting task of tackling poor public transport and disastrous rubbish management in the Italian capital, dubbed one of the dirtiest cities in the world.

A wild boar approaches parked cars in Rome.
A wild boar in Rome, on September 27th, 2021. Rubbish bins have been a magnet for the families of boars scavenging for food and are dominating headlines as the country votes in mayoral elections. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Across the country from the Eternal City to Milan, Naples and Bologna, voters are heading to the polls until Monday for municipal elections being closely watched as a bellwether ahead of 2023 general elections.

But in Rome – one of the world’s filthiest cities, according to a ranking last month by the British magazine Time Out – residents are more concerned with the perennial transport, flooding, waste and pothole woes in this city of 2.8 million inhabitants.

So bad is the rubbish management that wild boars are regularly seen wandering in residential areas, attracted by the pile-up of waste.

WATCH: Videos of wild boars ‘invading’ Rome streets go viral in Italy

In the picturesque neighbourhood of Trastevere, where bins often overflow onto the cobblestones, 60-year-old resident Tiziana De Silvestro, out walking her dog, said the root of the problem was rubbish left overnight outside bars and restaurants.

“Now the city is full of animals, crows, seagulls, not to mention mice and cockroaches,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘The great rubbish dump’: Why Romans are fed up with the state of their city

Rome’s current mayor, Virginia Raggi from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), has won praise for taking on the city’s fierce new mafia, the Casamonica family of loan sharks and drug traffickers.

But her widely mocked plans to use sheep as lawnmowers and bees to combat pollution – while rotting refuse piles up next to playgrounds, buses spontaneously combust in the heat and weeds run wild – may cost her dearly.

The candidate of the right-wing alliance, Nicola Michetti, is likely to pocket the most votes thanks to a split on the left, according to the last polls published before a pre-election blackout.

But he is not predicted to garner more than the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off in two weeks — and polls say he may then lose in round two to the Democratic Party’s Roberto Gualtieri, a former economy minister.

Michetti, a 55-year-old former lawyer, warns: “today we have seagulls and boars, tomorrow it could be cholera”.

His champion is the head of far-right Brothers of Italy party Giorgia Meloni, who said Rome has become an international joke.

Gualtieri and rival centre-left candidate Carlo Calenda, meanwhile, have called for round tables with experts to tackle the problem of the wild boars.

Some 12 million voters are eligible to cast ballots in the elections, which are being held not only in the country’s largest cities but in more than 1,000 smaller centres, including Morterone in Lombardy, which has just 33 inhabitants.

Turnout as of 7pm on Sunday was a little more than 33 percent nationally and just under 30 percent in Rome.

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Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.