In the Roman mayoral elections, the number one enemy (at least for now) is not the right-wing candidate Enrico Michetti, but the incumbent mayor: Virginia Raggi.
The Democratic Party candidate for mayor of Rome, Roberto Gualtieri, is building his campaign for the October 3 elections around criticizing her, “to get in a strong position for the runoff.”
Thursday marked the first test of public support for his campaign: a rally at the “Mouth of Truth,” a few feet from the Capitol, which the PD aims to conquer once more. A few hundred people were present, a rather quiet affair at first glance, with stands for all the candidates for the leadership of the municipalities and for the lists that support Gualtieri (seven in all).
Nicola Zingaretti, the former PD secretary and president of the Lazio Region, was by his side, buzzing with energy. He was one of the first to speak, and launched repeated volleys against the mayor, describing a “humiliated” city, “where living is hard,” where “nothing works anymore,” and promising “redemption.”
“It’s good at least that health care is not under the authority of the Municipality, otherwise we would have seen a tragedy,” he said.
The message is light vs. darkness, PD vs. M5S, “good government vs. bad government.”
“We are the ones who solve problems; Gualtieri will have the Region at his side, which will help the Capital. … It’s a battle for us Romans, to save our city,” exhorted the former PD secretary, heaping praise on the party’s mayoral candidate: “In the darkest moments of Covid, he approved layoff assistance for Italians without work.”
“I’ll try my best to lend a hand,” the governor ended. It was clear that this is also his battle, one that for various reasons he could not fight directly on two occasions (in 2013 and again this year).
Among those vouching for Gualtieri, particularly notable was the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, who was at Gualtieri’s side all day, praising his “honesty and competence.” Colau branded Raggi (who on Friday had a rally in the suburb of San Basilio with Conte) as the mayor “who made Rome disappear from the international community of big cities.”
“I have met many times with Beppe Sala [the mayor of Milan]; she has not.”
From Colau, Gualtieri borrowed the idea of a “15-minute city,” i.e. proximity, with services (from parks to libraries to health care) that would be more accessible than they are today. But the candidate is nonetheless starting from current reality: from “the piles of garbage,” “the dead fish in the Tiber,” the wild boars, the weeds, the roads to be redone. “I hope this is the last time that an electoral campaign has to be fought over ordinary administration, things that in other capitals are not even talked about because it’s normal for them to work.”
And this is Gualtieri’s challenge: to hold together the goal of the restoration of the municipal machine with a “vision” of a European capital. One which, thanks to the Recovery money, can try to look beyond, to take up a role that can “attract people and investments.”
Backstage, a timid optimism is beginning to make itself felt. “We need people to vote strategically so we can get to the runoff against the right, which is still the same as that of Alemanno and Storace,” warned Gualtieri. “I see feelings of confidence and hope emerging instead of the gloomy resignation that reigned before.” “Rome deserves a mayor who will make himself heard, including by the government. When I was minister, many mayors called me to speak their mind, but Raggi never did.”
The promises are plentiful: from planting a million trees to the elimination of the dumpsters, replaced by door-to-door waste collection. And more: a “city of women” that would respect the balance between life and work. Gualtieri announced that he would run a “humble and determined” campaign, and poured cold water on any possibility of an alliance with M5S for the runoff: “We have already united the center-left, we will not engage in shenanigans for the runoff.”
Before he spoke, the seven leaders backing him took turns on the stage. There was Giovanni Caudo, who came second in the primaries with a tough campaign against the PD (supported by Ignazio Marino), and who has now made a pact of loyalty with Gualtieri: “The center-left has changed, for the better. But woe to us if we win and go back to where we were before, we must rebuild the trust of the voters.”
There was also Bobo Craxi, who leads a socialist list and railed from the stage against “authoritarian global capitalism” and the right wing which “reminds us of fascist totalitarianism,” also lambasting Renzi and Calenda, who “are incapable of going beyond their own little personal parties.”
The rally ended with the theme song of the campaign: “I nostri anni” by Tommaso Paradiso, recalling Max Pezzali’s “Gli anni” in a mayoral-race version, full of nostalgia and team spirit. After all, “we” is the watchword of Gualtieri’s campaign.
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