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German misses entry into Florence town hall

Clear defeat: In the runoff election for the mayoral office of Florence, the German Schmidt missed out on entering the city hall. The former Uffizi director was supported by Meloni's right-wing camp.

Freiburg-born Eike Schmidt has lost the runoff election for the mayoralty of Florence. With 39.4 percent of the vote, the long-time director of the Uffizi Museum lost to the Social Democrat Sara Funaro (60.6 percent). With her, Florence now has a female mayor for the first time.

The art historian Schmidt, whose application was supported by the right-wing coalition under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, was head of the world-famous museum for eight years. Under his leadership, it recorded record revenues and visitor numbers.

As mayor, he wanted to lead Florence “with a management approach” and, above all, wanted to work on security and affordable housing in the city's historic center. In August of last year, he took Italian citizenship.

Pragmatic support from the far right

During the election campaign, Schmidt had always stressed that he wanted nothing to do with fascism and described himself as a “man of the middle”. He viewed the support from Meloni's camp pragmatically. These are people in Florence in particular with whom one can work together very realistically, he said during the election campaign.

It is unclear what will happen to Schmidt's political ambitions after the defeat. In order to be able to stand in the election, he had put his current job as director of the Capodimonte Museum in Naples on hold for the duration of the election campaign. In the event of failure, he would like to return to culture, he said before the election.

Joy at Social Democrats

Schmidt's opponent Sara Funaro said after the election: “I feel the excitement of all these months, the excitement of being mayor of Florence.” The 48-year-old psychologist had been a member of the Florence City Council since 2014, where she was responsible for social welfare, health care, immigration and education.

Funaro dedicated her election victory to her grandfather Piero Bargellini, who was mayor of Florence in the 1960s and was revered for saving residents and art treasures during the catastrophic flood in November 1966.

Setbacks for Meloni

In further run-off elections throughout Italy, centre-left parties also achieved success. In the cities of Bergamo, Perugia and Bari they became the strongest force, and in Sardinia's capital Cagliari they replaced Meloni's right-wing camp.

Runoff elections were held in Italian cities with more than 15,000 inhabitants, where no candidate was able to receive more than half of the votes. According to official figures, voter turnout was around 48 percent.

With information from Daniela Stahl, ARD Studio Rome

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