Italian Elections 2014 – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This super long link will tell you what is now happening politically in Italy.

I’ll tell you what I observed from my table in the piazza.

Sipping caffè one day and attempting to read Il Sannio, the local newspaper, I nearly choked on a headline.  Gli sconti per chi vuole spostarsi in treno in auto o in aereo (discounts for those who want to travel by train by car or by plane).  For folks to get back to their home towns to vote there are heavy discounts on travel!  There was a 60% discount on regional trains, 70% on national trains, 60% for travel by sea and the one that really kicked me in the ass – a 40 euro reimbursement for air travel.  Now my ticket on May first was a hell of a lot more than 40 euros but my niece in London could have flown over for the weekend for practically nothing.  Maybe they don’t do absentee ballots or they just like to have folks come home once a year.  This is definitely a good thing!

Another good thing is the short campaign season. I can’t find any on line resources to validate what folks have told me but it seems that candidates and parties can only campaign for one month.  Yeah!  No political BS for years in advance of an election.  Here, it is simply signs on the approved village sign boards and visiting folks in their homes.

This is the actor/comic Beppo Grillo's party.
This is the actor/comic Beppe Grillo’s party. He lost but had cute signs.

My landlord did get mail from parties but only one from each – not a thousand from each and no robo calls! How civilized.

Notice the palm card – well 4 palm cards – with the X through the icon – in case you forget how.


What’s bad? A hefty percentage of the people I surveyed in Pontelandolfo were not going to bother to vote.  “Why – what does the EU do for me?”  “Politics – it doesn’t matter they are all the same.”  It was interesting for me to hear this laconic attitude.  Last year when the election was totally local it seemed like everyone in the commune came out to vote – and they practically did. When I went to the polls this year I was the only one in my district’s room.  Good news is I didn’t have to wait.  According to – there was a nationwide drop in voters for this particular election:

(AGI) Rome, May 26 – Turnout in Italy for the European election on Sunday fell to 57.22 of percent of eligible voters from 65.87 percent in 2009, when polls also remained open on Monday morning. 

Here is some of the ugly.  One afternoon, I thought I was in Hudson County, NJ.  Men at the next table were listening to a recording on a cell phone and getting angrier and angrier.  They played it a couple of times – it was hard to eavesdrop with all that cursing but…  In a local race at a village whose name I didn’t catch, a candidate was calling people and literally threatening their jobs.  Being a middle aged white woman and obviously harmless, I asked what the men were upset about and they told me.  Some creep was calling older voters and telling them he would insure they lost their government jobs and never get another job unless they voted for his party.  My question was how the hell would anyone know who you voted for?  Paper ballots – you hand write a person’s name on paper ballots.  The villages are so small and there are so few folks that vote in a district that you can figure out who voted for you especially if they use the mark.  The mark?  You are told how to write the person’s name – I’m not kidding here this is what they told me.  Like, I’ll steal your cow unless you write me in as MiDge.  They tell the next old dude to write it midGe.  Since challengers get to review all ballots too……  This is pretty ugly. Uglier than anything I’ve heard of in NJ which can get pretty ugly.  How is that bridgegate scandal doing?


Yes, I voted. My dad ingrained that in my brain.  In Pontelandolfo we were only voting for the party who would send representatives to the EU.  We vote in the provincial high school – it is a specialty school for jewelry design.  Talk about good artsy vibes on election day.

This picture was from last year’s election. Yesterday there wasn’t a line nor a policeman.

I went into district two, showed them my voting card, carta identita and like last year started to give them my passport when the election worker said “we know you.”  H’mm is that good or bad?  They handed me a pencil and a piece of paper.  Horrifying the pool workers, I started to put my mark right there and stuff the box.  I mean all you have to do is put an X across the icon of the party.  They pointed me to my secure screened space, I made my X and then stuffed the paper ballot in the box.  There are no hanging chads you literally make an X over an icon.  I am a good cittadini.  I vote early and often.  Look – I had my voter ID card stamped to prove it!

See – I officially voted! Weeeeoooo!




Collateral – Getting Out the Vote – Pontelandolfo Style!

Collateral (posters, yard signs, fliers and other printed stuff):

Tired of the blitz of campaign signs cluttering the highway?  Starting in August, do you hate going to your mail box stuffed with political name calling, back biting and substance-less tirades?  Then start spending election season in Pontelandolfo – of course it is not in November.  There may be some whispering and cajoling but there is no crush of collateral.  The placement of signage is regulated by the commune.  I first discovered this in Florence when I was teaching an arts administration course.  My students were doing some volunteer work for a theatre company.  The goal was to place small posters in as many shops as possible because large posters placed throughout the city had to be approved by the city, a fee paid per poster and – this is the best part – a city employee hung the posters!

Equal billing for all!
Only one poster counts.

When the political posters went up in Pontelandolfo I was surprised to see them all neatly mounted on stone walls adjacent to each other.  Each ticket was snugly posted next to another.  The posters are large and placed in only a few spots around town.  When I asked if the campaigns had to pay the commune, it was explained that political tickets don’t have to pay the posting tariff but the commune still approves the signs and hangs them.  What is truly amazing is that except for color the signs all look the same!  Ahhh a civil way to post those bills!  We still get to look at the beauty that is Pontelandolfo and not political signs flapping in the breeze.

This is the official sample ballot posted in town.
This is the official sample ballot posted in town.
Candidate for Consigliere, Giuseppina Mancini.

Let’s talk about campaign literature – how the hell can we possibly call the scurrilous crap that fills American mailboxes “literature”?  Innuendoes coupled with pictures of politicians looking drunk, dead, demented.  Glamour shots merged with tales of perseverance, family and patriotism.  The only piece of campaign material that I saw was the Sindaco and List’s “programma” – their platform!  That is right – shake your head in disbelief  – an actual pamphlet that explained – not just 3 bullet points but explained – each plank.  The “Programma Di Governo” of the ticket called “Ricomincio Da Te”  included economics, jobs, environment, health, culture, education, police – well you get the point.  They actually wrote in complete sentences about issues that really matter – none of this “lower taxes” generic bullshit that I hear in Hillsborough, NJ.  This is my cousin Giusy Mancini’s ticket so we are prejudiced – openly and often.  The platform was explained and the pamphlet  handed out at an evening event in the village’s small theater.  I’ll bet over  200 potential voters turned out to hear the candidates and “brava” their support of the platform.  Note – the people had to come and pick up the collateral – no one was standing in front of the local grocery waving it at them.

The "Ricomincio Da Te" team just before the event.
The “Ricomincio Da Te” team just before the event.

The theater was absolutely packed – to the rafters really – well folks were hanging over the balcony.  When we got there a bunch of men were standing outside looking – well just looking.  It reminded me of the wild political days of the late 60’s when rooms were packed and the energy was high.  People listened, clapped or not, cheered or not and PICKED UP the one piece of literature!

In the spirit of honesty – yes I do have an honest bone or two in my body.  I must admit that in other towns in the area – much bigger cities – I did see not only more signs plastered on poles everywhere, but huge billboards on skinny trucks wending their way up cobblestone streets.