Rome city hall swings right

For the first time in 15 years, Rome has shifted to the right, with voters preferring former neo-fascist Gianni Alemanno, in a humiliating defeat for the city's former left-wing mayor Francesco Rutelli. (Report: C.Moore)


Rome's city hall shifted to the right for the first time in 15 years on Monday as former neo-fascist Gianni Alemanno claimed victory in a bruising showdown with left-wing rival Francesco Rutelli.

"This long battle has ended with our victory," Alemanno said after results from more than 90 percent of polling stations gave him 53.45 percent of the vote over 46.55 percent for Rutelli.

Alemanno's stiff challenge was bolstered by a convincing win for the forces of conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi in national elections two weeks ago.

Turnout was 63 percent, down from 73.5 percent in the first-round vote two weeks ago, the ANSA news agency reported.

Agriculture minister in the last Berlusconi government from 2001-06, Alemanno, 50, left the neo-fascist Italian Socialist Movement to join Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party.

Rutelli has struggled to shrug off his association with the deeply unpopular outgoing Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

The 54-year-old outgoing culture minister was softer than Alemanno on crime, a central theme in the campaign for Rome after the murder last October of a naval officer's wife blamed on a Romanian immigrant.

Two recent rapes were also blamed on immigrants, an Egyptian and a Romanian, deepening the debate.

Alemanno vowed to deport 20,000 immigrants with criminal records while Rutelli said he would boost surveillance and crime prevention measures.

Walter Veltroni, Rome's mayor for the last seven years until he stepped down in February to lead the centre-left in the general elections, trounced Alemanno in 2006 mayoral elections, 61 to 37 percent.

Rutelli scored 45.8 percent against Alemanno's 40.7 percent in the first-round vote this month.

A three-day weekend thanks to Italy's national day on Friday combined with sunny spring weather dampened turnout on Sunday to 47 percent compared with 57 percent in the first round, according to the interior ministry.

Observers say lower turnout among Rome's nearly 2.5 million voters probably benefitted the right.

Rutelli scored 45.8 percent against Alemanno's 40.7 percent in the first-round vote this month.

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