Jobs for the boys provokes protest in Italy: Despite making promises to the contrary, the ruling parties are finding it hard to reform their corrupt ways. Patricia Clough reports from Rome

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The Independent Online
The Venice Biennale, Italy's foremost arts festival, is in disarray and Italian research in a ferment as the arts and science worlds rebel against the political parties' persistence in putting their proteges in key posts.

The ruling parties, in deep disgrace for their corrupt ways, had promised to give up their habit of lottizzazione, or carving up public posts among themselves and the trade unions.

But this week three members of the administrative council of the Biennale resigned only days after their appointment amid protests in the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera that many of the 19 members of the new council were party apparatchiks with little or no artistic competence.

The first to go was Professor Paolo Costa, Rector of Venice's Ca' Foscari university and the only one without a party label. Having seen who the other members were he bowed out, saying there was 'the danger that there is no room for the role that I would gladly have played'.

Next was Sergio d'Antoni, secretary-general of the CISL, one of the three big trade union federations, which announced on Monday that they were pulling their people out of such jobs. He called for a radical reform and was followed by Furio Scarpelli, a scenario writer sponsored by the CGIL union federation, although he said he was resigning for professional reasons.

The Entertainments Minister, Margherita Boniver, announced yesterday she will meet the Culture Minister, Alberto Ronchey, to put together an urgent reform of the Biennale, which celebrates its centenary in two years' time. She pointed out that the lottizzazione of the Biennale is actually encouraged by its 1973 statutes, which specify that members of the council be appointed by the national government, the provincial government and the city of Venice (three each), the regional government (five), the unions (three), the Mayor of Venice (one) and the staff (one).

Many feel the Biennale has lost its lustre, as well as being plagued by financial problems and being investigated for expensive hospitality to critics and others. Its outgoing president, the architect Paolo Portoghesi (Socialist), says it is heading for 'paralysis'.

The Biennale affair follows on the heels of what Italy's scientists are reportedly calling 'the story of Mr Nobody and the Phantom Minister'. 'Mr Nobody' is Professor Enrico Garaci, the rector of Rome's Tor Vergata university, who was put up for mayor by the Christian Democrats in 1989. He lost and needed compensation.

Enter the Phantom Minister, so called because he is allegedly rarely seen in his office. Alessandro Fontana, Christian Democrat Minister for the Universities and Research, nominated Professor Garaci president of the National Research Council, which distributes government funds for scientific research. And the appointment was allegedly pushed through two months early for fear that the Christian Democrats might lose the ministry in a change of government.