Rome’s New Populist Mayor: ‘Just Call Me Virginia’

Italian Virginia Raggi, Five Star Movement (M5S) candidate for the election of Rome's mayor attends a campaign meeting on June 3, 2016 at Piazza del Popolo in Rome. The first round of the Municipal elections will be held on June 5. / AFP / Filippo MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read …

After taking Rome by storm in a resounding landslide victory in last Sunday’s mayoral race, Virginia Raggi has been unofficially dubbed “Her Majesty the Pope” upon greeting her adoring fans with a wave reminiscent of a papal blessing.

Yet the new queen of the populist Eurosceptic Five Star Movement has been spending her first days as mayor out on the streets walking among her people and attending liturgical ceremonies. She seems to want none of the adulation being bestowed on her, insisting that she would rather not be called “Mayor.” She told her new constituents, “Just call me Virginia.”

Amidst hurrahs and victory signs, Raggi’s fans also shouted, “Legality,” recalling the new mayor’s promise of an administration marked by transparency and adherence to the law.

Part of that transparency is already in evidence, as Raggi has been using her Facebook page to allow citizens to enter, virtually, the inner sanctum of Rome’s City Hall.

In her online “virtual tour,” Raggi addressed her people familiarly, introducing them to what have been, until now, mysteries behind closed doors.

“Citizens are entering into the institutions for the first time,” Raggi said. “I will show you the mayor’s office; I will take you out with me onto the balcony; I will show you what we are managing. This is Rome.”

Newly elected mayor of Rome, Five Star Movement's candidate Virginia Raggi, gives a press conference after winning the mayoral election on June 19, 2016 at her campaign headquarters in Rome. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI / AFP / TIZIANA FABI (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)


Raggi’s symbolic gesture of governing the city “together with the people of Rome” has resonated strongly among her constituents, standing in stark contrast to her predecessors’ murky dealings and perceived aloofness.

“Rome deserves to be loved,” she said, looking over the ancient city from her balcony.

Symbolic gestures aside, Raggi also has quickly gotten down to brass tacks, insisting that the city currently wastes 1.2 billion euros a year, a profligacy that she promises to “attack.”

“I will keep you informed about what happens, what I am doing, what is going on,” she promised with a smile.

For now, this seems to be exactly what the Romans are looking for.

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