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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 5

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 5

Subject:

Nichi Vendola, the Italian Obama

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 12:49:46 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (88 lines)

Nichi Vendola, the Italian Obama

He’s one of the country’s most popular politicians, net 
and social-networking confident, adored by the young 
and might lead a leftish coalition in the next general 
election. And he tries to keep a belief in politics alive

by Chase Madar
http://mondediplo.com/2011/01/15italianobama

Silvio Berlusconi’s gift for the battuta – wisecrack – has 
been a great help to his political career. But there are 
limits. He tried to bounce back from the revelation that 
he intervened to secure the release from prison of a 
17-year old Moroccan bellydancer, “Ruby Heartstealer”, 
who had been at his private parties, by saying “it’s better
 to go crazy over beautiful girls than be gay”. This did 
not go over well and in no way blocked public disgust with 
his “bunga-bunga” lifestyle. The crack was aimed at the 
Italian left’s new star, Nichi Vendola.

Nichi Vendola is the governor of Apulia, heel of the 
peninsular boot, one of Italy’s poorest and most socially 
conservative regions. That it should elect (and re-elect) 
a governor with a background in the Rifondazione 
Comunista (RC, Communist Refoundation party) which he 
helped found in 1991 (1), but is also openly gay, is 
counterintuitive, even if Vendola is a professed Catholic. 
He is now one of Italy’s most popular politicians and may 
lead a coalition of left and centre-left parties in the national 
elections of 2013. He is a charismatic scrapper, and has the 
Italian right worried.

Vendola can use the battuta, too. In November he enraged 
the rightwing governor of prosperous, northern Lombardy 
by declaring it the most “mobbed-up” region in Italy. 
(That a southerner would criticise the north for its failure to 
control the ’Ndrangheta and Camorra is a novelty.) Reversing 
decades of anti-communist Stalin-baiting, Vendola 
condemns Berlusconi for embracing Vladimir Putin and the
 “business is business” approach to buying energy from 
authoritarian states like Russia and Libya. When asked if he 
might become the first gay prime minister, Vendola confides 
that there has already been one, whose identity he has sworn 
never to tell. He easily quotes the 19th century poet Giacomo 
Leopardi, and the poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini – 
another gay Catholic leftist and subject of Vendola’s 
undergraduate thesis in literature – and also the New 
Testament and his former bishop, Don Tonino Bello, who in 
is the process of being beatified.

A Demos poll last November found Vendola was the best-
liked politician in Italy, more popular than either leader of the 
largest centre-left parties, the Partito Democratico and Italia 
dei Valori. After his failed attempt to lead the Rifondazione 
Comunista, Vendola has formed a new party, Sinistra Ecologia 
Libertà (Left Ecology Freedom), of which he was unanimously 
voted president at its founding convention in October 2009, 
offering him a secure if relatively small national power base. 
His Fabbriche di Nichi (Nichi’s Workshops) are political and social 
clubs, primarily for the young, that began in Apulia but are now 
all over Italy, with overseas branches; they are dedicated to 
decentralised “horizontal relationships” of power, and to doing 
public good deeds. Vendola has more Facebook fans than any 
other politician in Europe, and he podcasts, posts blogs 
and tweets.

to read the rest of this, go to
http://mondediplo.com/2011/01/15italianobama

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