The granddaughter of Benito Mussolini won the highest number of votes in elections for Rome’s city council as support for Brothers of Italy, the far-right party to which she belongs, edged up in northern cities held by the left.
Rachele Mussolini secured more than 8,200 votes in the municipal elections on Sunday and Monday, an increase on the 657 received when she entered the council on her first mandate in 2016.
She said her success in Rome is down to hard work and not her surname. “I learned to live with my surname since I was a child,” she told La Repubblica. “At school they used to point at me, but then Rachele emerged and the person prevails over a surname, however burdensome that surname is. I have many friends on the left and I am certain that one of them voted for me.”
Rachele is named after the fascist dictator’s first wife and is the daughter of the late jazz musician, Romano Mussolini.
Before becoming a councillor in 2016, she said she was only asked for interviews because of her family name. “But during my last term they started asking about the initiatives I’ve promoted. I’ve worked hard.”
She said she had formed excellent relationships with colleagues from the centre-left Democratic party within the council: “Politics is one thing, human relationships are another.”
Mussolini refrained from discussing fascism. “To deal with this topic we’d need to talk until tomorrow morning. I prefer to talk about Rome,” she said.
Meanwhile, Brothers of Italy is hoping its candidate, Enrico Michetti, will fend off the centre-left in a Rome mayoral elections runoff on 17 and 18 October. Michetti, who is backed by the far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, led in the first round and will face Roberto Gualtieri, a former economy minister, in the second ballot. The race is close but Gualtieri is expected to prevail as he picks up votes from the ousted mayor, Virginia Raggi, and Carlo Calenda, the fourth candidate in the first round.
Mayoral elections in Milan, Bologna and Naples gave strong mandates to the centre-left on Monday, while a second ballot will be held in Turin, where a centre-left candidate will face a candidate from the Brothers of Italy, League and Forza Italia coalition in two weeks’ time.
Brothers of Italy has been rising steadily in national polls in recent years and, according to a survey on Wednesday, the party was the second biggest in Italy, just slightly behind the Democratic party which has regained first position after the mayoral elections.
Even though Bologna, a leftwing bastion, was won by a candidate from the Democratic party, Brothers of Italy made advances in the city as it took votes away from the League. The party also emerged as the strongest performer of the rightwing alliance in Turin.
The growth of Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni, comes as support for Matteo Salvini’s League dwindles, leaving the pair jostling for power within the coalition.