Veltroni has been the editor of a leftist newspaper and mayor of Rome [GALLO/GETTY]


Walter Veltroni, Italy's prime ministerial hopeful, entered politics as a communist youth activist in the 1970s.

A cinema-studies graduate, he worked as a professional journalist and was editor-in-chief of L'Unita, the newspaper of the Democratic Party of the Left (later termed the DS) from 1992 to 1996.

Veltroni was elected mayor of Rome in 1999.

In May 2006, Veltroni was re-elected as mayor, easily defeating Gianni Alemanno, a former minister of agriculture. He obtained an unprecedented 61.4 per cent of the valid votes against the 37.1 per cent garnered by his main opponent.

The percentage of votes that supported Veltroni's second term in office was a record in local elections in Rome.

Obama echo

Veltroni was mayor for seven years until he resigned to lead the new Democratic Party (PD) in the parliamentary elections. 

He is running under the slogan of "Si puo fare" (It Can Be Done) in a deliberate echo of US Democratic candidate Barack Obama's use of the phrase, "Yes We Can". He is also hoping that he can convince voters he is their best bet for change.

In the final stages of the campaign, Veltroni even used George Clooney, a Hollywood actor and one of Obama's most famous supporters, for endorsement.

"Like Obama, I think Veltroni has a rare quality, a great oratory ability which can bring people together," said Clooney.

Veltroni has long aimed for a large, US-style party that would give the country's centre-left a stable majority.

Leftist background

Veltroni was elected in October to head the PD, a merger of the former communist Democrats of the Left and the centrist Catholic Daisy party.
  
However, in 2006, Veltroni said he was not interested in furthering his political career.
  
"I'm not planning to be in politics all my life," he told Le Monde, a French newspaper.

"I want other experiences."
  
Amid the influence of the Vatican, Veltroni has managed to avoid issues of personal faith while enjoying an "easygoing" relationship with the seat of Roman Catholicism.

Source: Agencies