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High stakes for Florence in historic local election vote

AFP
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High stakes for Florence in historic local election vote
Florentines will this weekend decide whether to elect a popular former Uffizi director or the city's first woman mayor in a high-stakes vote. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)

The city of Florence votes in a historic poll this weekend, set to elect either the first woman or the first right-leaning politician to the helm of the traditionally leftist bastion.

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The frontrunners in the weekend vote for mayor are Eike Schmidt for the right, a political novice who oversaw a successful revamp of the city's prestigious Uffizi Galleries that saw visitors and revenues soar, and centre-left Sara Funaro, an experienced politician from a storied local family whose grandfather led Florence during a disastrous flood in the late 1960s.

If elected, Schmidt would become the first right-wing politician to lead the historically liberal city; while Funaro would become the first woman to head the city synonymous with the Renaissance.

Opinion polls ahead of the election have put the top two candidates close.

Schmidt, 56, is the German-born art historian who is well-known in Florence for his eight years as director of the Uffizi.

Supported by the far-right party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Brothers of Italy, and her right-wing coalition partners, Schmidt has run with the slogan "Magnificent Florence", pledging to clean up the city and fight over-tourism.

Schmidt was naturalised Italian in December.

READ ALSO: What's being done to save Florence from mass tourism?

Funaro, 48, of the Democratic Party is a psychologist and granddaughter of Piero Bargellini, a venerable figure in Florence known as the "Flood Mayor" for directing emergency and recovery efforts during the catastrophic 1966 flood.

Funaro has been a city counsellor since 2014 in the government of outgoing mayor Dario Nardella, charged with welfare, health care, immigration and teaching.

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During his eight years beginning in 2015 at the Uffizi, one of the world's great museums, Schmidt oversaw dramatic gains in visitors and revenues, while enlarging exhibition space and expanding the collection.

Last year, the museum had over five million visitors and revenues of over 60 million euros.

In December, Schmidt was appointed the director of Naples' Museum of Capodimonte.

The elections will take place on Saturday and Sunday, with results likely to be announced Monday.

If no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote, the vote could go to a runoff in two weeks.

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