Local elections in Italy: Palermo before the return of the mafia friends?

Status: 06/12/2022 10:43 AM

Elections are held in nearly 1,000 municipalities in Italy. Particular attention is paid to voting in Palermo. There, anti-mafia mayor Orlando can follow a politician with dubious friendships.

Von Jörg Seisselberg, ARD-Studio Rom

They are useful local elections as a test of the political mood. Nine million Italians are allowed to vote, which is nearly a fifth of all eligible voters in the country. The focus is on an emblematic city: Palermo. In a Sicilian municipality of 675,000 inhabitants, anti-mafia mayor Luluca Orlando resigned, after two terms in office, he is no longer allowed to run in accordance with the law.

Jörg Sesselberg
ARD-Studio ROM

What’s causing a stir across Italy: Roberto Lagala, who succeeds Orlando as mayor of Palermo, may be among all the people said to have close ties to mafia friends.

Orlando is worried: “My strong and strong plea to the Palermitans is: We must never again be ashamed to come from Palermo. It depends on us and our decisions.” The capital of Sicily should not go back to the era “when the government of this city was put in the hands of a mafia boss,” says the 74-year-old.

A symbol of the successful struggle against the mafia

In the 1970s, the mayor of Palermo was Vito Ciancimeno, a Christian Democrat politician who had close ties to Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano and was later imprisoned for it.

Under the leadership of Orlando, Palermo became a symbol of a successful mafia fight. Orlando was mayor between 1985 and 2000. During his twenty-five years on city council, he has largely deflected the influence of Cosa Nostra.

Criticism: poor management

Orlando Misselli, a local architect and politician backed by the Social Democrats and the Five Star Movement, is set to carry on Orlando’s anti-mafia legacy. However, Micelli is lagging in the polls. He struggles with the fact that many people in Palermo appreciate Orlando’s commitment to fighting organized crime and helping refugees, but they accuse him of mismanagement.

Misselli, a friend of Orlando and a center-left candidate, is trying to balance the campaign trail: “I think in Orlando’s time, Palermo became a city with a different image, in Italy and abroad.” She now represents crime fighting, hospitality and civil rights. But then, Miceli adds, there are also criticisms: “But I think I have a right and a duty to make other business suggestions here.”

Orlando’s critics say garbage collection is not working, roads are in poor condition, and city coffers are empty. So the anti-Orlando candidate of the center-right coalition Roberto Lagala promises above all a more effective administration: “In Palermo we had to return 30 million waste sorters to Rome due to administrative errors.” These are things that should never happen again.

Mafia broker appears in the election campaign

However, the alleged actor Lagala is accused of working with mafia friends during the election campaign. For example, Marcello Dell’Utri supports him – a name well known to those interested in politics in Italy.

Dell’Utri set up a famous mafia as an employee of Silvio Berlusconi many years ago. Twice convicted as a mafia broker, the last time he was acquitted, but his re-appearance in the election campaign in Palermo still makes headlines.

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Just like the support that Toto Cavaro, the former regional president of Sicily, gave to the center-right candidate La Gala, who was also convicted of links with the mafia. “La Gala has the backing of del Autre and Cavaro,” says Michelle, the centre-left candidate. “This worries me because there is a danger that this is an ugly movie that we don’t want to see anymore.”

The centre-right candidate, Roberto Lagala, has been accused of colluding with mafia friends.

BILD: Photo by Tahaluf / Noor Photo

Center-right coalition candidates arrested

In the week leading up to the elections, two candidates from Lagala’s centre-right coalition were arrested because investigators found that they were plotting to collude with representatives of the mafia. At first he hit Pietro Polizzi, candidate for Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Police in Palermo intercepted a conversation in which the local politician offered advantages to a mafia worker if he and his family voted for him, a Polisi.

On Friday, police arrested Francesco Lombardo, the candidate of the Italian far-right Brotherhood party, who is also part of the La Gala coalition. According to the prosecutor, Lombardo also asked a local mafia leader to support him in the elections.

Verona: Ex-footballer Tommasi is a candidate for election

In addition to Palermo, elections are held in 978 other municipalities, including Genoa, Parma, Padua and Messina. Voting in Verona, northern Italy, is particularly exciting. There, the right-wing Lega is clearly struggling to defend its stronghold. The centre-left alliance is represented by former international footballer Damiano Tommasi.

Parallel to local elections, Italy also votes in five referendums, including judicial reforms in recent years. Among other things, it concerns the abolition of a paragraph of the law that prohibits citizens with a criminal record from running for parliament or holding a government position. The Radical Party, among others, as well as Lega and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia collected signatures for the referendum. The chances of the referendum succeeding are slim.

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