Eyewitness

May 5, 2000

London's new mayor will be able to look to a variety of European cities as he considers his approach to the post. One obvious example is Italy, which opted for directly-elected mayors in 1993.

Simon Parker, lecturer in politics at York University, said: "It was felt that local government needed stronger leadership. It had not been particularly effective and lacked legitimacy with voters because there were too many fragile coalitions."

The Rome mayoralty election in 1993 was won by a prototype of the centre-left "Olive Tree" coalition that has since formed national governments.

Francesco Rutelli, elected in 1993, still holds the post. Dr Parker said the responsibilities are wider than those of Mr Rutelli's London counterpart: "As well as services like housing and transport, he is also responsible for the local organisation of central government functions such as elections and military conscription. He is a mix of political leader, chief executive and senior civil servant."

Some of the limits on his power will look familiar to London's mayor: "Mr Rutelli has had to deal with a city council that is unsympathetic, with the centre-right in control. The government is hostile to strong leadership in the capital, and at the same time provides about three-quarters of his funding."

Elsewhere in Italy, Antonio Bassolino has given Naples high-profile leadership:

"He has opened up churches and museums that have been shut for years, tried to do something about traffic chaos and generally tried to restore the city's image," said Dr Parker.

In Germany, mayoral systems vary by region. Charlie Jeffrey, professor of German politics at Birmingham University, said: "It depends which zone of occupation cities were in after the war," "The former American zone in the south has elected mayors."

Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen is not directly elected - although he leads his party list in local elections. But he has a high profile and much greater powers than his London counterpart. Professor Jeffrey compares the powers of German Lander with those of the Scottish Parliament.

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