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
News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
music
Life and Style
fashion
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes