Milan elections for mayor on a knife-edge

Sunday the decisive run-off, with national repercussions.

After the first round of voting on 5 June left the two main contenders – Stefano Parisi for the centre-right (left of photo) and Beppe Sala for the centre-left – with a mere 4,938 votes or 0.92 per cent separating them (in Sala’s favour), the two have campaigned vigorously.

Both candidates have been active in wooing the senior citizen vote, visiting old folks’ centres as the over-65s make up over a fifth of the electorate, equivalent of some 310.000 votes.

A second major pool of support is the mass of “orphan” voters whose candidates did not survive the first round of the election – of which the supporters of Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) candidate Gianluca Corrado make up the largest group.

A deep and well-founded fear of abstention has moved both candidates to campaign hard for voters to go to the polls on Sunday. The similarity of the two contenders’ profiles – each former Milan city managers, each from a business-orientated background – may well have contributed to the voters’ indecision.

Another factor uniting the two has been their efforts to distance themselves from political “testimonials” from the national parties. Parisi has avoided any platform appearances with Silvio Berlusconi, whose legal woes and more recent medical problems leave him a campaign supporter of doubtful value. Nor has Parisi been seen campaigning with Matteo Salvini, whose Lega Nord scored a mere 12 per cent in the first round, making him more a liability than an asset.

Sala too has been careful not to appear on stage with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, despite his original nomination by Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD), in wake of the party's poor showing across the nation in the first round of voting in local elections on 5 June. The Radicals have however spontaneously decided to support him.

A defeat for Sala, if it were combined with losses for the PD in three other major cities – Rome, Turin and Bologna – would have serious consequences for the party and most of all for Prime Minister Renzi.