WHAT CHANCE is there of a gay, communist poet winning an election in a deeply Catholic country?
Not much you might think, but it happened recently in Puglia, in Italy’s deep south. Niki Vendola, a local MP for Rifondazione Comunista, won the “primary” election of the left-wing coalition.
He will now face the candidate of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition in a run-off battle for governorship of the region. It was the first “primary” election of its kind. Many commentators believed Niki Vendola stood no chance in the primary.
They predicted that the Blairite candidate would easily win.
Obviously the 80,000 people who voted in the primary weren’t negatively influenced by the fact Vendola frequently campaigns on gay rights. But what probably influenced them even more is that he is a fighter on every issue. Last year he was prominent in the campaign to support the victorious struggle of FIAT car workers at the nearby factory in Melfi.
And as a member of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission he has frequently received death threats and bomb scares at home.
Vendola’s victory has upset all the calculations people have made regarding Rifondazione Comunista’s probable weight in the forthcoming left coalition that will face Berlusconi at a general election later this year.