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Italian populists' poster girl hit by aide's arrest

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ROME  - Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi, the poster girl for Italy's populist Five Star Movement (M5S), suffered a setback Friday when her "right hand man" was arrested over suspected corruption.

The case is not linked to any council activity, but offices at the city hall were raided in the investigation into the official, Raffaele Marra.


A member of Raggi's inner circle who is currently head of personnel for the capital, Marra is suspected of accepting an illegal payment in connection with a shady real estate deal.

Marra was a controversial inclusion in Raggi's team because of his past employment by prominent right-wing figures in local politics, including former mayor Gianni Alemanno.

M5S prides itself on being scrupulously ethical and having no links to what it sees as a "caste" of sleaze-addicted cronies it says have dominated Italian politics for decades.


And its ability to make a success of running Rome, where Raggi won the mayor's seat in June, is seen as a key test in the run-up to nationwide elections due in the next 15 months.

Polls suggest M5S, headed by comedian Beppe Grillo, will rival the ruling Democratic Party in the battle to emerge from the polls as the biggest party.

Raggi faces a tough task in trying to turn around a city grappling with the legacy of years of corruption and mismanagement: pot-holed roads, failing refuse services and inadequate public transport.

Supporters say she is starting to make a difference after six months. But rivals have pounced on a string of resignations and cancelled appointments as evidence that the lawyer is not up to the job.

The Democratic Party meanwhile suffered a setback of its own when its high-profile mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, stepped down temporarily after being informed he was under investigation in connection with his previous job as the organiser of the 2015 World Expo fair in the city.

"Although I have no idea about what I am supposed to have done, I decided to suspsend myself from my post," pending clarification, Sala said in a statement.


According to Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Sala is suspected of a misdemeanor consisting of retrospectively dating a file in the tender process for the Expo's preparation work. The paper said the action had had no bearing on the outcome of the tender concerned.

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Muslim Global: Italian populists' poster girl hit by aide's arrest
Italian populists' poster girl hit by aide's arrest
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