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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Roman Empire’

Italy exit polls: Populists trailing in main mayors’ races

June 12, 2017

ROME (AP) — First exit polls indicate candidates from a populist movement did poorly in the main Italian mayoral races, with the leading candidates coming from both the traditional center-right and center-left camps.

Right after voting ended late Sunday night, pollsters for both state TV and private TV said their samplings indicated the anti-euro 5-Star Movement would fail even to make runoffs in the four top races, including a big setback in Genoa, which is home to Movement founder, comic Beppe Grillo.

The local races “put the brakes on the Movement’s” rise, headlined La Stampa, the daily in Turin, a major city where only a year earlier the triumph of the populists’ candidate there for mayor fueled 5-Stars’ national ambitions.

Substantial actual results were not expected until sometime Monday morning. But if exit samplings prove accurate, voters delivered stinging defeats to the populists, keen on gaining the premiership for the first time via national elections due in 2018.

The anti-euro party ran candidates in some 225 of 1,000 races. In Genoa, as well as in the other main city up for grabs, Palermo, Sicily, the top two vote-getters, according to the exit polls, were shaping up to be candidates from center right and center left.

Runoffs will be held on June 25 in races where no one clinches more than 50 percent of the ballots. Until Grillo’s Movement started gaining ground in the last few years, Italy’s political scene had been dominated for a quarter-century by center-right coalitions, led by media mogul and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, and center-left alliances, currently led by ex-premier and Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi.

Only a year ago, the 5-Stars dealt the Democrats embarrassing losses in Rome and Turin mayoral races. But a generally lackluster performance by 5-Star Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi, leading an administration dogged by scandals, has had many analysts wondering if the shine was fading for the Movement.

Turin’s 5-Star Mayor Chiara Appendino initially received high marks, but lately has faced criticism, especially about security when panicked soccer fans watching a match in a Turin square recently set off an injury-causing stampede.

Renzi resigned the premiership in December after miscalculating that Italians would back his government’s constitutional reforms in a referendum. Exit polls indicated the 5-Stars’ hopes to make inroads in the south also would be dashed.

Leoluca Orlando, a center-left figure who made his name as an anti-Mafia maverick in the 1980s, appeared to be leading in his bid for a fifth mandate as mayor of Palermo, Sicily, exit polls indicated.

At least one town needing a mayor won’t get one. No one offered to be a candidate in San Luca, a remote town in the Calabrian mountains and dubbed the “mamma of the ‘ndrangheta” crime syndicate for its notoriety as a stronghold of mobsters, Sky TG24 TV reported. Officials appointed by the Interior Ministry will continue to run the town of 3,900 residents until elections can eventually be held.

Populist campaign for minimum income draws Italian marchers

May 20, 2017

ROME (AP) — The head of Italy’s populist 5-Star Movement led thousands in a 15-mile march Saturday to demand a guaranteed minimum income for citizens as the party seeks to widen its appeal in hopes of clinching the national power for the first time.

Comic Beppe Grillo described the march between the Perugia and Assisi, another Umbrian town 25 kilometers (15 miles) away, as a way to express support for human dignity. The 5-Stars contend that aid for the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have arrived in Italy after being rescued at sea in the last few years risks coming at the expense of Italians struggling during the nation’s economic slump.

Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis, who championed the needs of the poor. “It’s we who are the real Franciscans,” Grillo told reporters. The push for a guaranteed income for Italian citizens is a major theme of the 5-Stars, who are keen on gaining national power in the next parliamentary election, which is due by spring 2018.

The 5-Stars have been courting centrist voters and have been expressing openness toward dialogue with the Catholic church on issues like poverty. In Milan, thousands turned out to march against racism and other forms of intolerance toward migrants and foreigners.

In the past year, some Italians have protested against migrants being housed in their towns while asylum requests are processed. Senate President Pietro Grasso addressed the Milan gathering, calling the rally a response to those who want to erect “cultural, ideological walls” against migrants. He said the outpouring of citizens sends a message that Milan and other places welcoming foreigners are “modern, cosmopolitan, democratic.”

“Those who are born in this country, go to school with our children, root for our teams” are Italian, Grasso declared, in a reference to the minimum income that populists want to grant only to Italian citizens.

Many of the migrants rescued at sea hope to eventually reach northern Europe, to find relatives and better job prospects. On Saturday, the Italian coast guard said some 2,100 migrants had been rescued at sea and were being to safety in Italy, including a 6-week-old boy. One body was also recovered.

Italy has been shouldering the bulk of the tens of thousands of migrants and refugees who have come across the Mediterranean Sea this year. A European Union deal for several northern European countries to take in many of those rescued migrants has failed to relieve Italy of caring for so many in need.

Nighttime vandals smash some 70 headstones at Rome cemetery

May 12, 2017

ROME (AP) — Vandals have struck overnight at Rome’s largest cemetery, smashing and shattering some 70 headstones and memorial monuments. Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi decried the rampage at Verano Cemetery as a “vile deed.” Officials said Catholic and Jewish headstones were among the smashed monuments.

Glass frames of loved ones decorating graves were shattered, and flower vases toppled. Italian news reports said investigators suspect that a group of youths slipped into the cemetery when it was closed at night and vandalized the tombstones.

Italy’s Renzi easily in Democratic Party primary

May 01, 2017

ROME (AP) — Former Premier Matteo Renzi regained the Democratic Party leadership, handily winning a Sunday primary that he hopes will bolster the center-left’s ability to counter growing support for populist politicians in Italy ahead of national elections.

“Forward, together,” Renzi tweeted, invigorated by his comeback after a stinging defeat in a December reforms referendum aimed in part at streamlining the legislative process led him to resign as head of Italy’s government and as leader of his squabbling party.

“The alternative to populism isn’t the elite,” Renzi told supports late Sunday after unofficial results indicated he got more than 70 percent of votes cast nationwide. “It’s people who aren’t afraid of democracy.”

Some politicians predicted that the primary win would embolden Renzi to maneuver seeking to bring national elections ahead of their spring 2018 due date as part of his effort to rein in increasing popularity for the populist, anti-euro 5-Star Movement.

But a top Renzi ally sought to counter that idea. “The government’s horizon is 2018. Starting tomorrow, we’ll work with Premier (Paolo) Gentiloni. Gentiloni’s government is our government,” said Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina.

Renzi’s party is still the main force in Italy’s center-left coalition government, but opinion polls indicate it is no longer the country’ most popular. Overtaking the Democrats in recent soundings was the 5-Star Movement, whose leader, comic Beppe Grillo, wants a crackdown on migrants, rails against European Union-mandated austerity and opposes Italy belonging to the euro single currency group.

Throughout the day, some 2 million voters lined up at makeshift gazebos in piazzas and street corners, at ice cream parlors, cafes or local party headquarters around the country to cast ballots for a new head of the splintering Democratic Party, whose rank-and-file range from former Communists to former Christian Democrats.

Primary voting was open to anyone 16 years of age of older — the oldest voter was reported to be 105. Holding Democratic Party membership wasn’t a requirement. Trailing far behind in the votes were Justice Minister Andrea Orlando and Puglia region Gov. Michele Emiliano.

In addition to countering the challenge of 5-Star’s popularity, to regain Italy’s premiership, Renzi will have to contend with malcontents and defectors in his own party. A group of mostly former Communists split from the Democrats and formed a small, new party in resentment over both Renzi’s centrist leanings and his authoritarian style.

Renzi’s reputation in politics is one of ruthlessness. In early 2014, he promised then-premier and fellow Democrat Enrico Letta that he wouldn’t undermine the government, only to shortly afterward engineer Letta’s downfall. Renzi then became premier.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella recently insisted that electoral laws must be overhauled before new elections. Currently, there is one set of electoral rules for the lower Chamber of Deputies and a completely different one for the Senate, a consequence of the failed reform referendum.

Italy president hugs those like him who lost family to Mafia

March 19, 2017

ROME (AP) — Italy’s president, whose brother was murdered by Cosa Nostra, traveled on Sunday to an organized crime stronghold to honor hundreds of Italians slain by the country’s crime clans over the past decades.

President Sergio Mattarella also praised the judges, prosecutors, police officers, union leaders, businessmen and politicians who courageously combatted or denounced organized crime. During the ceremony in Locri, a Calabrian town that is a long-time base of the ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate, the names of innocent victims — some caught in the crossfire of turf wars — were read aloud. Among the names was that of the president’s brother, Piersanti Mattarella, the Sicilian governor assassinated in Palermo in 1980.

The event anticipated Italy’s annual remembrance day, occurring later this week, for victims of organized crime. Near Naples, hundreds of scouts filled a church in the mobster-infested town of Casal di Principe to pay tribute to a priest, Giuseppe Diana, who denounced the local Caselesi crime clan of the Camorra syndicate. Diana was shot to death in the church sacristy in 1994.

Mattarella lamented the “Mafia is still strong” and controls or tries to infiltrate much of Italy’s economy. He denounced “gray areas, those of complicity,” which mobsters exploit, a reference to corruptible politicians and public administrators who, investigations have found, help mafiosi win lucrative contracts in construction and social services, such as hospitals.

While rooted for generations in Italy’s underdeveloped south, the ‘ndrangheta, Camorra and other syndicates have also infiltrated businesses in affluent northern Italy. Mobsters have been laundering illicit profits in popular restaurants and cafes in Rome and elsewhere. Legitimate manufacturing businesses in the north turned to the Camorra to illegally dispose of toxic waste to save money and avoid bureaucracy.

Still, progress has come. Young people in Sicily inspired many shopkeepers and industrialists there to stop paying Cosa Nostra “protection” money. Locri Bishop Francesco Oliva insisted Calabria wants to break with a past “stained by the blood of crime feuds that sowed death and desperation.”

Riot police move against Naples protests of Northern League

March 11, 2017

NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Riot police moved in Saturday to quell violent protests sparked by the first major rally in the southern city of Naples by the anti-immigrant, anti-euro Northern League leader. Police fired tear gas and water cannons against the protesters, who tossed bottles, rocks and Molotov cocktails their way.

The protesters were a violent offshoot of an otherwise peaceful march through Naples by people opposed to Matteo Salvini, who recently traveled to Moscow to forge ties with the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Northern League has its base in Italy’s affluent north and has long criticized the tax money Rome funnels to the poorer, less-developed south. But the League in recent years has tried to make inroads in the south, capitalizing on anti-immigrant, populist sentiment and poor showings by its longtime center-right partner, Forza Italia, and more recently a drubbing at the polls by the Democratic Party. Recent polls give the League around 13 percent of the national vote.

During the rally, Salvini pressed his nationalist “Made in Italy” theme, attacking the EU and praising Russia’s efforts to crack down on the Islamic State group. “If Putin hadn’t intervened ISIS would be in Naples,” he said, using another acronym for IS.

Salvini also disparaged the protesters as entitled rich kids. “I’d like that all the delinquents who were in the piazza had the same energy to fight the Camorra,” he said, referring to the Neapolitan mob.

Italy’s Tajani poised to lead EU parliament

17 January 2017 Tuesday

Italy’s Antonio Tajani, an ally of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, moved closer to being elected the new European Parliament president Tuesday after two key groups formed a “pro-European” alliance against rising populism.

The 63-year-old center-right politician comfortably won the first round of voting with 274 ballots but failed to secure a majority in the 751-seat parliament based in Strasbourg, France.

The silver-haired Tajani is a former European commissioner who has faced criticism over the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” emissions scandal and previously served as spokesman for scandal-plagued Berlusconi.

If confirmed, he will replace Germany’s Martin Schulz, a socialist who during five years in office made the office of European Parliament president far more prominent than it had ever been before.

Early on Tuesday the head of the parliament’s Liberal group, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, pulled out of the race and threw his support behind Tajani, the candidate of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) grouping.

“It is absolutely necessary. With Trump, with Putin, with many other challenges Europe faces, it is key we cooperate to reform our union,” said Verhofstadt.

The deal secures Verhofstadt’s important role as parliament’s chief negotiator in talks over Britain’s departure from the European Union.

EPP party chief Manfred Weber said: “Our partnership is based on content and on reforms for Europe.”

Source: World Bulletin.


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