Category Archives: Elections

Southern Italians press author Pino Aprile to lead political action

by Anthony M. Quattrone

The Party of the South and 20 other southern Italian political and cultural organizations held a meeting in Bari on 6 September 2012 with Pino Aprile, author of the best seller “Terroni”, to seek his agreement to become the political leader of a wider southern Italian political movement aiming at electing to the Italian Parliament during the elections in 2013, a team of dedicated southern deputies truly committed to the redemption and revival of the Italian South.

There are already many southern Italian deputies elected to the Chamber of Deputies, but, according to Enzo Riccio, member of the executive board of the Party of the South, “none truly represent southern Italians because their parties are tightly linked to the economic and political interests of northern Italian financial and industrial groups”.  According to Riccio, “the South has been in a position of subordination to the north since the brutal conquest of 1860-61, when the Piedmontese occupation army subjugated and annexed the peaceful, independent and sovereign state of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies”.

Antonio Ciano, founder and honorary president of the Party of the South

Southern Italian political and cultural movements complain that during the past 151 years the unified Italian state, which went from a monarchy under the House of Savoy to a democratic Republic after World War II, has fundamentally treated the South as a colonial possession, stripping it of its industry, banks and population.  According to revisionist historians, the vast majority of Italian immigrants throughout the world come from southern Italy because their homeland was brought to misery by the new Italian unified state, which they allege favored northern interests.

The Mayor of Bari, Michele Emiliano, speaks with attendees outside City Hall before the meeting

The meeting in Bari was hosted by the city’s popular mayor, Michele Emiliano, who is a member of the Italian Democratic Party (center left) and is a staunch supporter of the rights of the Italian South.  Last year, in another meeting with Pino Aprile, the mayor opened the event having a band play the national anthem of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, openly marking his understanding of subjugation of the southern homeland.

The hundreds of participants who filled City Hall were unable to sway Pino Aprile into becoming the leader of the wider southern Italian movement, but they were rewarded for their efforts when they heard him announce that he will play a major role by becoming the editor-in-chief of a new southern Italian daily which is in the making.

Stefano Lo Passo and Luca Antonio Pepe of the “Together for the Rebirth (of the South)” movement

Antonio Ciano, founder of the Party of the South, was particularly forceful in reminding the audience that the battle for the redemption and the revival of the South is uphill against the “strong powers” of the North.  Author Lino Patruno was particularly moved by the presence of many youngsters in the crowd.  Two young representatives of “Insieme per la Rinascita” (“Together for the Rebirth of the South), Luca Antonio Pepe and Stefano Lo Passo appealed to the need for linking the battle for the revival of the South with a strong struggle against all forms of organized crime.

According to Marco Esposito, a member of the Naples City Government and major organizer of the meeting in Bari, the creation of an independent southern Italian newspaper headed by Aprile will provide a major loudspeaker and standard-bearer for southern interests, facilitating the development of a strong and well established southern Italian political movement.

Pino Aprile in Bari

The comments on social networks after the meeting with Pino Aprile ranged from rank-and-file disappointment that the Pino Aprile would not take up a specifically political role, to a more pragmatic approach which acknowledges that, after all, the meeting has led to Pino Aprile’s announcement that the South will finally have an independent paper not linked to any northern financial or industrial group.

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New Mayor invites Obama to Naples

Anthony M. Quattrone

Mayor of Naples, Luigi De Magistris (L), shakes hands with US Vice President Joe Biden during the visit to Capodichino U.S. Navy Base in Naples, Italy, on 04 June 2011. On Right President of Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro. (Photo SkyTg24)

The newly elected mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has invited President Barack Obama to visit Naples.  The Mayor, who is a staunch supporter of the American president, is hopeful that a visit by Obama could be used as a milestone for the rebirth of the city, which has been plagued by waste disposal problems, violent and petty crime against citizens and tourists, and collusion between organized crime and politicians.
During the visit by American Vice President, Joe Biden, to the US Naval Support Activity in Naples, Mayor de Magistris formalized his invitation to President Obama.  The Mayor stated that “I will work very hard for this event to take place – it is not an improvised matter, but something in which I firmly believe.  I believe that there are all the conditions for the visit to take place, but the timing needs to be verified.  I am an Obama supporter and I know that the States are very careful regarding the movement that has been created around my person.  There are analogies with what happened with Obama”.

The Neapolitan daily “Il Mattino” reported on 5 June 2011, that there will be a meeting next week between the Mayor and the American Consul General, Donald Moore.  According to the paper, the Consul stated that “we need to re-launch tourism, discuss the relationship between Naples and the United States, the relationship with the Neapolitan citizens who live in the United States, and the necessary commitment regarding security in light of what has happened very recently”.  The Consul was obviously referring to the violent death of an American tourist who died as a consequence of injuries received when robbers stole his Rolex watch downtown.

The President of the Campania Region, Stefano Caldoro, also supports the idea of inviting President Obama. “Il Mattino” reports that discussions have already taken place with the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The objective would appear to be to create and international event or an Italy-USA bilateral meeting in Naples which would allow the city to benefit from major influx of public funds which could serve to bring it up to speed. Commentators are looking at the positive effect that the G7 had on the city in 1994, when President Bill Clinton and other international leaders were hosted by the city.  At that time, during Antonio Bassolino’s first term in office as mayor, the city underwent major refurbishing and restyling, leading many to label the period as a new Neapolitan renaissance.

While discussions proceed on getting Obama to visit the city, Luigi de Magistris is working on nominating his new city government.  His objective is to announce the names of the twelve department heads on 13 June 2011 .  Observers believe that the new government will include many technicians, a high number of women, relatively young persons, and it will be non-ideological. De Magistris will be relatively free from the influence of major political parties because he won defeating the candidates put forward by Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right and Pier Luigi Bersani’s center-left.   His most daunting task is to rid the city of tons of garbage before the high heat of the summer leads the disposal problem to become a major sanitary issue.

More photos from SkyTg24 of Vice President Joe Biden with US troops and with the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris

More photos from “La Repubblica” of Vice President Joe Biden with US troops and with the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris

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Naples has a new mayor: Luigi de Magistris

Anthony M. Quattrone

Official campaign poster: Luigi de Magistris Mayor "for" Naples

New mayor wins with 65% of vote

A former magistrate, Luigi de Magistris, is the new mayor of Naples. He has been elected today during a runoff between the two candidates who received the highest number of votes during the first round held two weeks ago. He defeated Gianni Lettieri, an entrepreneur representing a center right coalition supported by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The new mayor is a member of the European Parliament where he is the Chair of the Budgetary Control Committee. He was elected in 2009 representing the Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) party, which is affiliated with the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe formation in the European Parliament.

De Magistris is a 43 old native of Naples. He is married to the former Maria Teresa Dolce and has two sons. He became a public prosecutor in 1995, with assignments in Naples from 1998 to 2002, and as deputy public prosecutor in Catanzaro, Italy, from 2002 to 2009. He entered the European Parliament as the second most voted Italian politician after Silvio Berlusconi. During the course of his career as public prosecutor, his investigations have frequently run into political roadblocks leading to his transfer and attempt to subject him to internal disciplinary measures. One of his investigations caused serious controversy leading to the resignation of Clemente Mastella, the Italian Minister of Justice, in 2008, causing the fall of the center-left government led by Romano Prodi.

Luigi de Magistris decided to run for the seat of mayor of Naples after that the center left primaries were cancelled last January due to alleged irregularities on the part of supporters of the very influential politician Antonio Bassolino, an ex-communist former mayor of Naples and former governor of the Campania Region. De Magistris announced his candidacy for mayor in February and he was supported by a coalition of three parties, his own Italia dei Valori, the Federation of the Left, and the relatively new Partito del Sud (Party of the South). A citizens’ list also, “Napoli è tua” (Naples is yours) supported him.

During the two-round runoff competition, Luigi de Magistris obtained approximately 28 percent of the vote, second to Gianni Lettieri with approximately 38 percent. The candidate of the center left, Mario Morcone scored slightly below 20 percent and the candidate for the center, Professor Raimondo Paquino scored approximately 9 percent. During the negotiations between the different coalitions, De Magistris refused an official agreement with the center-left, but appealed to their electorate. He also courted in public Paquino, obtaining his informal support. In the end, he was able to muster enough support to win with a striking 65 percent against 35 for his opponent, Lettieri.

De Magistris ran on a law and order platform, combined with proposals for re-launching Naples as a major European capital, ridding it of garbage and creating the premises for major investments. His electorate includes citizens of the whole political spectrum ranging from the far left to conservatives concerned with ramping insecurity and disorder. De Magistris will be able to count on a very solid majority in City Hall where at least 32 council members out of 48 will support his program, and another 4 will be neutral. The center right opposition will be able to count on only 12 votes.

Now de Magistris will need to immediately deliver on his promise to rid the city of garbage and to implement modern waste collection and disposal systems in line with the high environmental standards that he and his coalition have advocated during the election campaign.

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Center-left primaries in Naples: a farce

Anthony M. Quattrone

The primaries held by the center-left coalition on 23 January 2011 to select the candidate for the election to mayor for the city of Naples, which will take place in the spring (the date has not yet been set), has degraded into a scandal-ridden event.  Andrea Cozzolino captured 37.3% of the vote, followed by Umberto Ranieri with 34.6%, by Libero Mancuso with 15.8%, and by Nicola Oddati with 12.1%.  Only 1,200 votes separate the winner from the second-up. Close to 45 thousand people participated in the primaries.

Cozzolino’s success is tainted by accusations made by other candidates that he, or his supporters, acted improperly with respect to voting that took place  in two districts, Secondigliano and Miano.  Cozzolino lost in eight of the ten Neapolitan districts, but he won by an overwhelming margin in only two districts, allowing him to distance Ranieri by 1,200 votes.  Cozzolino is supported by the former mayor of Naples and two-times President of the Campania Region, Antonio Bassolino.  Ranieri is supported by the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.  The third candidate, Libero Mancuso, is a former magistrate, supported by the left of the coalition.  Nicola Oddati, who is the only candidate not born in Naples (he is from Salerno) is a member of the current city government headed by Rosa Russo Iervolino, where he is the assessor responsible for culture.

The accusations against Cozzolino range from having received illegitimate support from Fulvio Martusciello, a member of the center-right coalition at the Regional Council, to having “bought” votes with the help of organized crime.  The national direction of the Democratic Party has taken over the Neapolitan section of the party placing it on 27 January 2011 in the hands of a commissioner, Andrea Orlando, nominated directly by Pier Luigi Bersani, in the place of Nicola Tremante.  The new commissioner, who is a member of Parliament and is responsible for the party’s national commission on justice and legality, annulled the primaries and started an internal investigation regarding the allegations made by several candidates and observers.

In Italy, the system of primaries, which have been adopted during the past three election cycles only by the center-left coalition, is still in an embryonic stage.  There is no formal method for identifying who is authorized to vote in the primaries.  The center left party organizations set up the voting methodology, and rely on volunteers to identify voters, who may  include also non-residents and those who normally vote for the center-right.  Since the center-right coalition does not hold primaries, their voters are free to “influence” the primaries in the center-left coalition, because they are not forced to choose to vote in one primary versus another.

Commentators in the local press note that the evident failure of the center-left coalition that has been ruling Naples under the leadership of mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino since 2001, and the administrative failure of Bassolino’s governance of the Campania Region before Stefano Caldoro’s center-right coalition took over last March, added to latest scandal involving the primaries, make it imperative that the center-left find a candidate capable of uniting the coalition and who is completely removed from Bassolino and the “old gang”.

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Naples City Council sets bad example

Anthony M. Quattrone

During the past four years, the Naples City Council was scheduled to hold 135 sessions, but, 36 meetings had to be called off because there were not enough council members present for the session to be considered legal.  The Council was elected in May 2006, when the center left coalition headed by outgoing mayor, Rosa Russo Iervolino, won the elections reconfirming her for another five years, until April of 2011, when her mandate will expire.

On 21 September 2010, the president of the City Council, Leonardo Impegno, who is member of the center-left Democratic Party, had to make use of a loophole in city regulations, to allow the Council to stay operational.  The rule allows the president to reconvene a new meeting when the first one does not reach the minimum number of council members present, allowing the Council to deliberate even with the presence of 20% of the council members.  The Naples City Council is composed of 61 members—the loophole would allow a session to be considered valid with only 12 members, thus allowing a minority to deliberate on behalf of the Council.

The inefficiency of the Naples City Council has been exacerbated also by the constant but inexorable balkanization into splinter groups of the coalitions of center-right and center-left.  The Council now has 17 different political groups, with each group leader entitled to administrative and logistical support from and paid by City Hall.  According to Impegno, the City gives each group leader a mobile phone, commercial lines, three admin assistants, and office space, at no cost.  Additionally, 135 thousand euro are divided in 17 parts for each group leader, and another 135 thousand euro are divided proportionally based on the number of council members belonging to each of the 17 groups.  The work of the City Council is quite inefficient also because the president is required to meet with group leaders to formulate the agenda of the items and issues to be discussed by the Council.

The meeting scheduled on 28 and 29 September 2010 will probably see a full house, because the budget will be discussed.  In this case, should the Council not meet the necessary quorum to make the meeting legal, that is, 50%, the minister of the Interior will automatically disband the Council.  In this case, the city government would be assigned to a commissioner reporting directly to the national government, and all of the elected officials would be sent home.  Observers are of the opinion that the City Council Members will probably make sure that the minimum quorum will be met in the budget meeting in order to not lose the remuneration and fringe benefits that are currently receiving.

The judgment of the Neapolitan press is particularly severe regarding the behaviour of the City Council members because Naples needs leadership and proper decision making in tackling the many emergencies facing the city.  The bad example set by many of the members of the City Council is disheartening.

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Stefano Caldoro’s center right coalition wins in Campania

Stefano Caldoro with Premier Silvio Berlusconi on 18 March 2010 during the campaign for governor of the Campania Region (photo from Caldoro's campaign site at http://www.caldoropresidente.it/foto/)

Stefano Caldoro, the candidate for the center-right coalition for governor of the Campania Region, has won the elections held on 28 and 29 March 2010, and the parties in his coalition have also conquered the majority of seats in the Regional Council. Caldoro took 54.25% of the vote, against Vicenzo de Luca, the candidate for the center-left coalition, who earned 43.04%, Paolo Ferrero, with 1.35%, who ran for the “federation of the left”, and Roberto Fico with 1.34%, representing another leftist formation, the “five stars movement”. Caldoro will be replacing Antonio Bassolino, the outgoing center-left governor, who held the post for the past ten years.

Only 62.96% of the approximately 5 million eligible voters cast their ballots during the elections in Campania.

The results in Campania follow the general trend in the elections held in ten other Italian regions. The results allow Premier Silvio Berlusconi to claim victory for his center-right government because his coalition has increased the regional governments that it administers from two to six, leaving four to the center left. The center-right won in Campania, Lazio, Piedmont, and Calabria, and it held on to Lombardy and Veneto. The center-left was able to hold on only to five regions: Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Liguria, Umbria, and Basilicata.

In Campania, Stefano Caldoro’s victory was cheered by those who are seeking a total break with the style of the outgoing governor, Antonio Bassolino, whose administration was marred by the accusation of cronyism, favoritism, and overall inefficiency. During the Bassolino years, the region has been at the center of international attention due to the garbage crisis. Stefano Caldoro is particularly concerned that Bassolino is continuing to make political appointments to regionally managed firms while he is on his way out, without coordinating such appointments with the incoming government. Continue reading

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Campania votes on 28 and 29 March 2010

Antonio Bassolino, outgoing president of the Campania Region (photo from the official Campania Region website)

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.

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