Milan mayoral candidates debate issues on TV

Sala and Parisi highlight Milan's major problems.

Candidates Beppe Sala (centre-left) and Stefano Parisi (centre-right), who won the top two slots in last Sunday’s election for mayor of Milan – and who will therefore face each other in the decisive run-off on 19 June – slugged it out in a debate on Sky TV this week.

While there was no formal points system to measure the outcome of the debate, commentators tend to describe the result as a draw, with some points scored on each side.

On one issue at least, the candidates were in agreement. They both took their distance from nationwide political parties and insisted that, despite backing by Prime Minister Renzi for Sala and by Forza Italia founder Silvio Berlusconi for Parisi, each was “his own man” and a milanese aiming only for improving conditions in the city.

This is unsurprising, since Renzi is still reeling from the poor showing of his Partito Democratico in local elections across the nation, while Berlusconi is still entangled in legal woes and has recently been hospitalised with a serious heart condition.

The two traded blows over the immigrant issue: while Sala blamed his opponent’s “friend Alfano” [minister of the interior] for assigning so many incoming migrants to Milan, but insisted that the city was playing its part with generosity, Parisi complained that there was no action plan on the immigrant issue. “But our plan is for a more open city and less hypocrisy over the issue.”

Discussing their programme for governing Milan, each candidate had promises. Parisi denounced the frequent traffic blocks for exceeding pollution levels (101 days in 2015) as “useless”, saying he would pay more attention to boosting use of hybrid and electric-powered vehicles and to overhauling the city’s outdated central heating plants.

Sala promised a technical and financial plan to re-open the city’s navigli waterways “in line with our idea of an environmentally sustainable Milan”, and to put the plan to citizens in a referendum by 2017.

As for the coming run-off, for which both candidates are trying to attract voters from the supporters of the candidates defeated in last Sunday’s first-round result, Sala conceded cautiously that he saw “elements of convergence” with the MoVimento 5 Stelle, who had come in third. Parisi retorted, “I’ll talk with whoever wants change – the Grillini [M5S supporters] can vote for whoever they want.”