Left-wing mayors clean up in Italy

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The outgoing left-wing mayors of Rome, Venice and Naples romped home to stunning re-election victories according to results published yesterday, in a glittering demonstration of the notion that a little administrative competence goes a long way in Italian politics.

While the country's centre-left government tried to take the credit and political analysts predicted a leadership crisis in the opposition, the deeper truth was that Messrs Rutelli, Cacciari and Bassolino were rewarded for at last trying to stop the rot in three of the world's most beautiful but traditionally worst-administered cities.

Francesco Rutelli, a media-conscious Green, has scrubbed Rome's filthy church facades clean, introduced electric public transport and replanted parks that had been reduced to barren ashtrays strewn with broken glass. Massimo Cacciari, a misanthropic philosopher, has dredged Venice's canals and tried to halt the decline in the city's population. Antonio Bassolino has built up star status by giving Naples some of its self-confidence back and attracting tourists to its freshly scrubbed old centre. All three men won over 60 per cent.