Sicilian votes worth every penne: Claims that local election support was traded for bags of pasta adds to Italy's political corruption storm

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement says the events are evidence of the 'moral disaster' taking place in Sicily

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The Independent Online

Claims that votes in Sicily were traded wholesale for bags of pasta, or for €5 (£3.60) each, have added to a building political storm over corruption, as Italians prepare to vote on Sunday in local elections.

Ahead of the poll in seven regions and more than 1,000 councils, parliament’s cross-party Antimafia Commission is expected to present a list of 17 candidates who it will say should not stand. Most, if not all, are thought to be in the Puglia and Campania regions. All of these “unpresentables”, as the press has dubbed them, have been convicted or are under suspicion of corruption, fraud or Mafia-related offences. Four names, all in Puglia, have leaked out.

But the problem of corruption, particularly in the south of Italy, has been further underlined by accusations that crooked candidates in the 2012 regional elections bought batches of 30 votes in poor areas of Palermo for €150 (just over £100).

The suspects also traded packets of pasta and cartons of milk for votes, magistrates said, after arresting the alleged go-between, Giuseppe Bevilacqua – a man said to have Mafia ties – and the three politicians, Nino Dina, Roberto Clemente and Franco Mineo, who belong to small centre and centre-right parties.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) said events were evidence of the “moral disaster” taking place in Sicily. Controversy over the Antimafia Commission blacklist is adding to the feverish atmosphere. Splits along party lines are thought to have hampered the list’s preparation.

Some critics demanded to know why the list was not released immediately. And one Commission member, the M5S’s Mario Michele Giarusso, said the list had been curtailed for political expediency. “The Commission is not even capable of checking press coverage, given that the names on the list represent only a third of those that have already appeared in the press,” he said, adding that names had been left out in order “not to impede the sale of votes”.

But although the majority of “unpresentables” are thought to represent centre-right parties, the centre-left has not been left untarred.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has publicly backed Vincenzo De Luca, his centre-left Democratic Party’s candidate for the governorship of Campania, despite De Luca having been convicted for abuse of office, relating to the award of a local incinerator plant contract in 2008. He is appealing the conviction.

Nonetheless, the news has led to accusations of double standards against Mr Renzi, who has supported the naming and shaming of the 17 “unpresentables”.

“That’s why people should not vote PD,” said Mr Giarusso. “He [De Luca] is the unpresentable numero uno who should be named, but won’t be,” he said.

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