Letter from an Italian campaign
You would be amazed at the electoral scene here.
Siracusa is about the size of Ipswich and there are 40 seats on the city
council. There are 24 parties competing for these seats,
most of them with a full list of 40 candidates. Over 900 candidates
altogether. At the same time there are 6 candidates for
directly-elected mayor, each supported by one
or more of the 24 parties mentioned. There are also elections for the
councils for the six wards into which the city is divided. There are
also of course the European elections. Altogether there are maybe 1500
candidates so practically every family has one or more candidates. It is
all absurd but that is how it is.
Every morning I go out with an old comrade (aged 73) called Pippo for 3
or 4 hours putting up posters which then get covered by the opposition,
so we cover them, and so on... it
is crazy but that is the way it works down here, unless you do all this
then your candidate's vote will drop and someone else in your party will
get elected instead.
Pippo is a great man to work with. He worked as a railway electrician
in Turin for 27 years during which time he was on the trades council
there with people like Bertinotti, current
leader of Rifondazione Comunista. As we drive from one hoarding to the
next to paste up our posters, he regales me with stories about life on
the railways in the 50s and 60s.
As for the European elections, the picture here is complex. A few
examples: Rifondazione and the Comunisti Italiani competing for the left
vote. The Green Green party and the
Green Peace party competing for the green vote. Alessandra Mussolini's
breakaway party competing with Fini's party for the fascist vote. Three
different Christian Democrat
parties. Craxi's son trying to breathe life into the corpse of the
Socialist Party. Numerous lists run by mavericks like Emma Bonino who
have broken away from their old parties.
The Democratic Left (DS) is like Labour in the UK - split between old
and new, with the new element dominant, while people like my brother in
law try to keep the socialist flag flying. But there is an important
difference - old and new DS are united in having consistently opposed
the Iraq war, and in calling for the Italian troops to be brought
They have genuine hustings here. Last Sunday, Fassino (DS leader) spoke
in the principal square of this medium-sized Sicilian town, and last
night (02 June - a public holiday to
commemorate the plebiscite in 1946 that put an end to the monarchy)
Fausto Bertinotti, leader of Rifondazione, spoke in the same square.
Anna and I were present for both of these but we missed Oliviero
Diliberto, deputy leader of the Comunisti Italiani, who spoke in another
part of town, also yesterday. Decent crowds turn out for these events,
2000 to 3000 at each. The weather helps.
The local elections are the main focus here but of
course they are voting in the Euro elections too. There is no party
that is anti-Europe, anti-Euro, or anything like that. Every
party of course wants to have a strong - or at any rate a respectable -
representation in Europe. Especially down here in the south they expect
their Euro-politicians to bring home
the bacon in the form of EU money for development projects.
Everyone here is far too busy to go to Rome to demonstrate against
Bush's visit, but it seems from the lunch time TV news that the Romans
have been doing a good job in making it clear that he is not welcome.