Sally Capp streets ahead in vote count for Melbourne’s next lord mayor

Labor candidate Jennifer Yang is expected to narrow the margin, but is unlikely to be able to close the gap.

Labor candidate Jennifer Yang is expected to narrow the margin, but is unlikely to be able to close the gap.

Photo: Justin McManus

Ms Yang had 1055 votes, while Greens candidate and current City of Melbourne councillor Rohan Leppert had 929.

That gave Ms Capp just under 30 per cent of the vote, Ms Yang 15 per cent and Cr Leppert just under 13 per cent.

Despite the positive numbers, Ms Capp’s team was keeping a lid on things.

“It’s too early to call,” her spokesman, Ben Hart, said late on Thursday.

“We’re just watching the numbers. We’re still hopeful but not confident.”

The Yang team’s campaign manager, Will Fowles, said it was ”very pleased with the way the numbers are looking and confident [of] a strong result”.

The Victorian Electoral Commission began its official collation of votes on Thursday but will not release any polling data until after Friday’s midday deadline for receipt of postal votes.

It is expected to announce the result from 6pm on Friday.

Greens candidate and current councillor Rohan Leppert is likely to finish third, according to ballots seen by scrutineers.

Greens candidate and current councillor Rohan Leppert is likely to finish third, according to ballots seen by scrutineers.

Photo: Eddie Jim

The byelection followed the resignation in February of long-time lord mayor Robert Doyle after he was accused of sexually harassing a number of women, including two councillors.

Mr Doyle denies the allegations.

Acting lord mayor Arron Wood, a member of the Team Doyle ticket that was returned with a thumping majority in 2016, spoke favourably of Ms Capp’s campaign during an appearance on radio station 3AW on Thursday.

“Sally Capp has supported some of the policies I think are good, but more importantly she’s run a positive campaign,” he told Neil Mitchell’s Mornings program.

But he warned that Ms Yang might have more difficulty negotiating with current councillors.

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“To be absolutely upfront, if Jennifer Yang was successful, and we’ll work with whoever goes into the chair, but she would have a lot of repairing to do with colleagues because of the negativity

Speaking before the close of polls, Monash University political scientist Nick Economou said getting elected could be the start of the winning candidate’s battle in terms of control of the council.

“It would be like Donald Trump trying to work with a rampant Congress,” Dr Economou said of gaining a majority within Town Hall.

“Melbourne City Council is a small-scale representation of the US Congress model, or the French model, with a directly elected president.

“You can vote for the president, and the president’s party as well, but there’s a fair chance they won’t get a majority.

“All the other councils are classic Westminster.”

This system had also been in place in Geelong, but was scrapped after the state government sacked then mayor Darryn Lyons and the council, which it labelled dysfunctional, in 2016.

“I wonder if we might not be beginning to see a change in how Melbourne City Council is elected,” Dr Economou said.

“I think the future of the system hangs in the balance here and depends on who gets elected and how they’re able to manage their affairs.”

Debbie Cuthbertson

Debbie Cuthbertson is a senior writer and Saturday chief of staff at The Age.

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