The candidate just dying to win

On paper, Aduo Farri seemed a perfectly acceptable candidate for Italian local elections held yesterday. At 61, he had become a well-known figure around Figline Valdarno, outside Florence, and was running for mayor. But there was just one small reason why voters might have wanted to think twice before choosing him: Mr Farri died of a heart attack last Monday.

His demise had not escaped the electoral commission, which referred it to the Interior Ministry. But the Interior Ministry did not want his death to derail his candidature. Electoral law makes no provision for deaths occurring mid-campaign, so his name stayed on ballot papers, and it is possible that today Figline Valdarno will find it has elected a deceased mayor.

Partly because of upheavals of the past few years inspired by anti-corruption investigations, Italy has one system for municipal races in towns with a population of less than 15,000, another for populations of more than 15,000, another for provincial and regional polls and another for general elections. Each contest has its own rules. For example, a dead man cannot stand in a municipality of less than 15,000. In larger towns, however, corpses may only be disqualified if they go through to the run-off, two weeks after the first round.

If things are complicated for candidates, spare a thought for voters. A few years ago an army veteran was told he was not allowed to vote because, according to the register, he had died during the Second World War. Despite rather raucous signs of life he displayed for the next half hour, he could do nothing to sway the returning officer. To prove he was alive, he had to go to the town- hall registry office for a certificato di esistenza in vita - literally a certificate of his living existence. Unfortunately, since it was a Sunday, the registry office was shut and he had to stay dead for 24 hours longer.

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