Italians have begun voting to choose mayors for the country’s largest cities in elections that will test the popularity of the prime minister, Matteo Renzi, and could produce a big breakthrough for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Five Star’s Virginia Raggi, a 37-year-old lawyer, hopes to become Rome’s first woman mayor and was ahead in opinion polls before their publication stopped 15 days before the vote on Sunday, as required by Italian law. Only in Turin is the candidate of Renzi’s Democratic party, incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a clear favourite. Renzi has said the elections would have no repercussions for his left-right coalition government.
About 13 million people, or a quarter of the adult population, are eligible to vote for mayors of about 1,300 towns and cities, though political attention is focused firmly on the biggest: Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin.
Voting opened at 7am and will close at 11pm, when the results of exit polls will be announced for the main cities. Initial projections based on the actual vote count will be issued after about an hour, and then at regular intervals. If, as polls suggest, no candidate wins more than 50% of the initial city votes, runoffs between those who come first and second will be held on 19 June.