Sicily elects governor linked with Mafia

Sicily has confirmed its dubious reputation by enabling Salvatore Cuffaro, a Christian Democrat on trial for complicity with the Mafia, to trounce the sister of a murdered anti-Mafia judge and win a second term as governor of the island.

Mr Cuffaro, nicknamed "Vasa Vasa" [Kiss Kiss] for his tendency to kiss all and sundry - he claims that he has kissed a quarter of all the people on the island - went on trial in Palermo last year. He was accused of tipping off a friend that his phone was being tapped by anti-Mafia investigators tracing links between Sicilian politicians, civil servants and the Mob. He refused to resign when sent for trial, saying he would only do so if convicted.

The decision by Rita Borsellino to run against him turned yesterday's election into a test of the island's readiness to unite and fight the Mafia that extorts protection money from around 80 per cent of tradesmen in Palermo, and makes huge sums through its corrupt domination of public works projects, rubbish disposal and hospital supplies. It is a test Sicily has failed - though Ms Borsellino cut Mr Cuffaro's majority from more than 20 per cent to about 9 per cent. Mr Cuffaro won 52.2 per cent of the vote, against 43 per cent for Ms Borsellino.

A pharmacist whose family run a chemist's shop in Palermo, Rita was the sister of Paolo Borsellino, an investigating magistrate blown to pieces in 1992 by a huge Mafia bomb outside his mother's front door. Two months earlier, his close colleague, Giovanni Falcone, with whom he had been leading a wide-ranging investigation into the Mafia, was killed in the same way along with his wife and bodyguards on a Palermo motorway.

The murders ignited the conscience of Sicilians, who came out on the streets in huge numbers to protest. Rita Borsellino became a figurehead for the first mass anti-Mafia movement. "After the massacres," she said during the campaign, "my life changed fundamentally. I decided to come out of my private life and begin this voyage which has never ended, travelling around Sicily, Italy and other parts of Europe, telling what had happened."

The anti-Mafia campaign subsequently ran out of steam. "We've gone backwards a lot," she said, regarding Sicilian attitudes to organised crime. "The Mafia are a presence in politics again. In these five years, sadly, there have been major steps backwards, including the intertwining of certain Mafia figures and certain politicians."

But her decision to run for governor gave the anti-Mafia movement another shot of life. "The movement re-ignited, they've found a point of reference in me," she said.

But now her movement has run up against the pronounced and perennial conservatism of Sicily - and its willingness to turn a blind eye. "We are up against an adversary that is very powerful and has many means at its disposal," Ms Borsellino said, "and is in power, and retains a certain base of support in the territory among those who believe they will bring material benefits, who believe the promises that have been made to them."

After the result became clear, a Christian Democrat colleague of Mr Cuffaro, Saverio Romano, commented: "It is a personal victory for President Cuffaro who in these years has been heavily slandered, denigrated and attacked, even by other politicians."

But a supporter of Ms Borsellino's, Claudio Fava, said: "Cuffaro started to lose today. This is just the first step. The next will be in Palermo's court house. If you consider the defections from his ticket, Cuffaro has suffered a loss. The fiery power of the centre-right coalition was unable to protect him."

* The centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Romano Prodi kept its grip on cities including Rome, Turin and Naples and forced a run-off election for mayor of Milan, a conservative stronghold, early projections in local balloting indicated. The election for mayors as well as for the governor of Sicily was the first balloting since parliamentary elections on 9-10 April in which Mr Prodi's forces narrowly defeated the conservatives of Silvio Berlusconi.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor