Anthony M. Quattrone
On 28 and 29 March 2010, approximately 5 million citizens of the Campania Region will be eligible to vote to select the new president of the region and to renew the Regional Council. Campania is the second most-populous region of Italy with a population of around 5.7 million. It is also the most densely populated region in the country.
The outgoing president of the region is Antonio Bassolino, a former member of the Italian Communist Party and one of the founding fathers of the Democratic Party. Bassolino was a very successful mayor of Naples, serving two terms from 1994 to 1998. His successful first term was rewarded at the polls in 1997, when he won 72.9% of the vote. In 1998, he resigned his post as mayor to become minister of labor and social security in the government of Massimo D’Alema. After the assassination of his close advisor, Massimo D’Antona, in 1999, by the leftist terrorists, Bassolino resigned his post as minister and returned to Naples to compete for the post of President of the Campania Region. He was elected to the post in 2000, with 54.3% of the vote. He was re-elected in 2005 with 61.6% of the vote. Bassolino’s last term in office has been marred by numerous scandals involving the role of consultants and by the inability of the Region to manage the garbage crises that hit Naples and the whole of the Campania Region several times during his second term as president.
A center left coalition also holds the majority of the seats in the outgoing regional council, which is composed of 60 members. The outgoing president of the Regional Council, Sandra Lonardo, is in a very interesting, albeit, contradictory position. She is the wife of the former center-left minister of Justice, Clemente Mastella, who resigned his post in the government led by Romano Prodi on 16 January 2008, after that his wife was placed under house arrest as a consequence of her indictment for corruption. Mastella’s resignation, and the subsequent withdrawal of his party, the UDEUR, from the center-left coalition, caused the fall of the Prodi government, and the decision by the President of the Republic to call for new national elections, which brought the center right coalition, led by Silvio Berlusconi, back to power. Today, Clemente Mastella is a member of the European Parliament, representing Berlusconi’s Pdl Parly, while his wife, Sandra Lonardo, is still a member of the center left formation in the outgoing Regional Council, but she is running with Berlusconi’s center right coalition, supporting Stefano Caldoro for president of the Region. The UDEUR, led by Mastella and Lonardo, is quite popular in Benevento and the surrounding areas, and might very well determine the outcome of the elections in Campania.
The two main candidates for the position of President of the Campania region are Stefano Caldoro for the center right coalition led by Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà (Pdl) party, and Vincenzo De Luca for the center left coalition, led by two major parties, the Democratic Party (Pd) and the Italia dei Valori (Idv – Italy of Values). According to a poll conducted by SWG on behalf of the Corriere del Mezzogiorno, the race is too close to call for the position of President, but the center right parties are in the lead of over 12 points for obtaining the majority of seats in the Council. The election rules allow citizens to vote separately for the Council and for the president.
The center left candidate, De Luca, who is the current mayor of the city of Salerno, is also well liked by centrist and conservative voters for the very tough stand on crime and illegal immigration that he has taken in the city of Salerno. For this reason, De Luca is often referred to as the “sheriff”. De Luca is also credited by voters from the left and the right for having taken a very critical stand of his party colleague, Antonio Bassolino, opposing the former’s candidate for the election to mayor of Salerno in 2006. De Luca beat the official candidates of the center right and center left coalitions by running as an independent.
The center right candidate, Stefano Caldoro, a former member of the Italian Socialist Pary, has held the post of under secretary, vice minister, and minister in two Berlusconi governments over the past decade, but he has no specific administrative experience either at the city or regional level. He is currently a member of parliament, where he has been elected to the House in 2008 with the Pdl party.