Runoff on 19 June will decide who becomes mayor.
Candidates Stefano Parisi for the centre-right and Beppe Sala for the centre-left emerged neck and neck from Sunday’s mayoral elections in Milan.
Their votes were 41 per cent and 41.6 per cent respectively, making a decisive run-off necessary in two weeks’ time.
Analysts were unsurprised by the result: with nine candidates in the field, the chances of any one of them scoring the 50 per cent plus one vote necessary for a win were remote, commentators said.
The surprising news came from the voter turnout: over 91 per cent of Milanese voters went to the polls in 1970 to vote for mayor, but since then the participation has dropped steadily, to 82 per cent in 2001, 68 per cent in 2011 and down to just under 55 per cent this year. In the central municipio 1 zone, barely 50 per cent bothered to mark their ballot card.
Sala (photo left), supported by prime minister Matteo Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD) and the minor left-wing Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) party, had little to fear from the three other left-wing candidates, none of whom scored more than 8 per cent. “I was hoping for a better turnout,” Sala shrugged, “but there was the long weekend, so...” He was referring to the “ponte” caused by the proximity of last Thursday’s national day holiday.
“I’m very pleased,” said Parisi: “three months ago nobody had heard of me, while Sala was well known after [being sole commissioner of] Expo Milano 2015.” Parisi was supported by the right-wing coalition of Forza Italia, Lega Nord, Fratelli d'Italia, Alleanza Popolare and Italia Unica.
The third candidate, gathering barely more than 10 per cent of the vote, was Gianluca Corrado of the rebel MoVimento 5 Stelle. The low turnout, he commented, is a sign of a weak democracy. Corrado’s supporters will be firmly in the sights of the two contenders in the 19 June run-off, as the main pool with enough votes to swing the result one way or the other.
Overall in Italy the turnout was a little over 62 per cent. In the six regional capitals involved in the election – Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Bologna and Cagliari – five produced draws; only in Cagliari was an outright winner returned, outgoing mayor Massimo Zedda of the left-wing SEL party with over 51 per cent.