Runoff in Rome and Turin: will it end with a center-left’s blitz?

The media attention on last weekend’s clashes over the green pass – with the associated political controversies – had almost managed to take over the ballots on Sunday 17 and Monday 18 October. The second round of Italy’s local elections concerns 65 municipalities, among which the cities of Rome and Turin obviously stand out.

After the victories in Milan, Naples and Bologna, the center-left has the opportunity to realize a blitz over the center-right, which has so far appeared to be very uncompetitive in the large urban centers of the Italian peninsula. Leaders’ declarations are truly emblematic: if the secretary of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta speaks openly of a possible “triumph”, the leader of the League Matteo Salvini says he is satisfied “if so many people will go to vote”.

In the capital, center-left’s Roberto Gualtieri and center-right’s Enrico Michetti closed their election campaigns on Friday with two rallies respectively in Campo de’ Fiori and Piazza del Popolo. The challenge for the Capitol will be decided by their ability to gather the vote of Calenda’s and Raggi’s electors, who in the first round collected almost 40% of the votes.

On paper, the big favorite is Gualtieri, thanks to the endorsements received by Calenda and Conte. Still, in the secret of the ballot box the orientation of the M5S electorate could choose a different way than what was indicated by the party’s political leader.

Naturally the position of Rome outgoing mayor Virginia Raggi has lot to do with this eventuality, since she confirmed that she’ll sit in the opposition benches even with a victory by Gualtieri. In addition, one has to consider the bad mood winding in a substantial part of the Movement against an alliance with the Democratic Party that continues not to convince.

Another variable to be monitored carefully will be the attitude of the endless peripheral areas of the capital. During the last municipal elections the outer districts of Rome voted massively for the M5S, while this time in the first round they deserted the polls en masse to mark their disaffection from a political class deemed incapable of representing their needs.

In addition to a reaction to bad politics, it is a theme that is directly linked to the Capitol’s ability to effectively govern a city of the extension of Rome – grown dramatically over the decades (its municipal area is equal to Greater London, but with a third of the inhabitants) without this corresponding to an efficiency of its administrative management or a solution to its long-standing structural problems.

The second big city in the ballot is Turin, where the candidates of the center-left Stefano Lo Russo (43.69% of votes) and center-right Paolo Damilano (38.87%) compete against each other. The outcome of the first round liquidated the M5S season quite clearly, with the 5-Star’s candidate Valentina Sganga unable to go beyond 9.19% of the preferences in order to collect the legacy of the outgoing mayor Chiara Appendino.

The fact that an abundant half of the electorate has deserted the polls is the mirror of a depressed metropolis, which is perceived in decline after the dismise of the factory-model on which it had built its twentieth-century fortunes and which today is terribly struggling to develop a credible restart strategy.

On the eve of the ballot, both candidates declare that they will be able to bring at least a part of the abstentions in the first round to vote and, just like in the capital, they are competing to attract the M5S consents.

According to skeptics, the fact that the issue of relaunching the Piedmontese capital found so little space during the election campaign is the clearest sign of the persistent difficulties of its ruling class in developing a credible vision of the city of the future. Certainly not a good omen for a city that has never voted on what has been done, but always on what remains to do.