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Italian populist backs Rome mayor amid administration chaos

Associated Press Associated Press 8/09/2016

ROME — The leader of Italy's populist 5-Star Movement is giving Rome's embattled mayor a public vote of confidence after her administration fell into disarray over a spate of resignations and judicial inquiries.

In a blog post Friday and a public appearance late Thursday, comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo denounced what he called a media-invented campaign to discredit Virginia Raggi, the first woman to lead Rome's city hall.

"There's not just garbage to cancel, but an entire rotten system of power," read the blog, signed by Grillo and other top officials of the movement.

Raggi's new administration was thrown into chaos last week after she dismissed her Cabinet chief and four other officials resigned. This week, she had to respond after reports emerged that her environment minister was under investigation by prosecutors. And on Thursday, she had to ditch the proposed nomination of a replacement budget director because she said his background didn't fit the 5-Star criteria.

Raggi came to office in June promising to fix Rome's transport, garbage and corruption scandals. Her predecessor, from the Democratic Party of Premier Matteo Renzi, had been forced out over an expense account scandal.

Italian newspapers have been rife with reports of internal divisions within the 5-Star Movement over Raggi's choices for administration posts. Her position is important to the upstart movement as it represents its biggest electoral prize yet.

She has admitted mistakes but said Friday: "I'm not giving up."

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