Naples squeezed by political vice: Workers are unpaid, traffic-lights are broken, and births and deaths go unrecorded. Patricia Clough on a Neapolitan fiasco

'IT HAS all got to be done according to the rules,' insisted Arturo del Vecchio, deputy mayor of Naples, as he tried to ignore the maniacal howls of derision that echoed round the great stone council chamber.

The deputy mayor was having some trouble applying the rules. Half an hour earlier, a neo-fascist councillor had thrown a bucket of water at him to 'clean up' the council. Others simultaneously let off ear-splitting sirens, threw water bombs, seized his seat, knocked down the microphone and fought with his allies until the police pulled them apart.

Earlier, the police had ejected 200 other opponents, assorted greens, hard-line communists, anti-Mafia demonstrators and unionists who had occupied the hall for five days. Claiming to represent the citizens of Naples, they demanded fresh elections to 'liberate the city'.

Unfortunately for the deputy mayor, it had just been discovered that rather a lot of rules have been broken in Naples. In fact, a political Vesuvius had erupted which made the Milan corruption scandals look like a middle-sized tremor. And some of the red-hot ash was landing here, in the Maschio Angioino, the massive stone castle by the port which is the city hall.

The city's ruling parties, it emerged, did not just take rake- offs as in Milan and everywhere else. They, or so the magistrates believe, were hand-in-glove with the Camorra, the Neapolitan Mafia. Five of their most illustrious politicians, including Antonio Gava, former interior minister and pillar of the Christian Democrat party, are under investigation for conniving with the Camorra.

Somewhere very secret, probably far away and carefully protected, a top man was 'singing'. He is Pasquale Galasso, son of a legendary boss from the Naples hinterland, now the No 2 to the Camorra's jailed capo di capi, or boss of bosses, Carmine Alfieri, the richest of all Mafiosi. A business wizard, he controlled the clan's money-recycling and investment operations and is said to have made some pounds 650m a year.

Galasso had a hair-raising tale to impart. It dated back to 1980 when politicians and Camorristi realised they could divide up the torrent of public money that was flowing in for reconstruction after the earthquake of that year. They went on to share the spoils of public works contracts, exchanged favours, did business. Alfieri is said to have become the top boss because of his political protectors. There were murders - some, it is alleged, ordered for political reasons.

Galasso is not the only pentito (grass), and these are not the only scandals. Magistrates are probing rake-offs to politicians for allowing the dumping of toxic waste from elsewhere, which no one is rushing to clean up.

There were murky deals over the funicular railway, the fast tramway and the works for the 1990 World Cup, as well as the alleged buying of votes with favours by the Neapolitan former health minister, Francesco de Lorenzo. 'And this,' says a Naples law reporter, 'is just the beginning.'

Furthermore, to make sure their cosy business was not disturbed, the Camorra allegedly corrupted the local judiciary: seven former key figures in the public prosecutor's office and the courts are believed to have favoured the Camorra in judgements, or passed on vital, confidential information.

The ordinary, daily woes of Naples seem negligible by comparison: the 20,600 city employees who have not been paid for weeks; the homeless and the unemployed; the fact that no births, marriages or deaths have been registered since 19 October 1991; or that some 200 of the city's 250 sets of traffic lights don't work, with effects that can be imagined.

The deputy mayor was in the hot seat last week because the mayor himself, a Socialist, Nello Polese, was under house arrest and had resigned. Five other members of the council have also been arrested and another 20 - of a total of 80 - are under investigation. Warrants are out for a further 115 people and hundreds more are under suspicion.

The aldermens' seats below the deputy mayor's desk were empty, except, that is, for colourful communist, green and Rete (anti-Mafia) stickers - an omen, perhaps, of what was to come? The city administration had collapsed nearly two months earlier and, according to the rules, the council had until next Tuesday to elect a mayor and new administration or it would be dissolved, the city would be placed in the hands of a government commissar and fresh elections would be called.

But Mr del Vecchio's Christian Democrats, the Socialists and their allies did not want elections, which might strip them of the power and privileges they had so long enjoyed in Naples. They want to hang on for the four years left to run. 'We have got to work in the interests of this city,' one insisted, amid hoots of incredulous laughter.

The opposition, right and left, was outraged. 'You want to escape the judgement of the people,' one councillor shouted. 'You represent only the business interests of corrupt politicians.'

For two days the ruling parties quietly, doggedly, sat out the shouting, filibustering, points of order, roll calls, heckling and insults, while even a Socialist leader in Rome begged his men to give up. And at dawn yesterday, with only four votes to spare, the Christian Democrats, Socialists and their friends finally had their mayor and new administration.

'Democracy is a corpse and the South will bury it,' declared the neo-fascist leader, Amadeo Laboccetta, promising a mass rally. 'The South can and must become ours.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test