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

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

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10856075/EU-election-2014-Italys-Renzi-triumphs-as-comic-Grillo-loses-ground.html

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.

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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 AGI.it – 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.

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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!

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See – I officially voted! Weeeeoooo!

 

 

 

Final Push – Elections in Pontelandolfo

THIRTY DAYS!  A scant 30 days to tell the world you are running for office!  How bloody civilized!  In the USA the campaign season never ends.  One election is over and the slow news channels start tossing names to the wind for the next series of elections.  Here, candidates by law have exactly 30 (THIRTY) days to pitch themselves.  Friends of ours who are ex-pats in Ecuador told me the same rule applies there.  Thirty days to tell us about yourself.  if you can’t make a pitch in 30 days you shouldn’t be pitching.The concept was a little unnerving for me – especially on the 2 (TWO) election days.  There was no little job I could do.  No elderly folks to drive to the polls.  No bars to roll drunks out of.  No cemeteries to pull names off of.  Damn, what is a Jersey Girl supposed to do?  Well, what everyone else did.  Go vote!

Standing, waiting, and watching.
Standing, waiting, and watching.

Candidates stood together chatting as a team in front of the polling places  – even Ripley would not believe this – candidates did not approach a single voter!  They didn’t toss a palm card at them or kiss their kids!  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Let’s talk about the last few of those thirty days.

The “list” that we were following did continue it’s door to door press.  “Facsimile” ballots were distributed with an X through the right circle.  Yes, I will admit I carried mine into the polling place with me.  They also reminded people to come to the piazza  on the Friday night before the Sunday election.  You heard me – SUNDAY – the polls were open from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM.  Monday they were open from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM.  Friday night was the last legal night to campaign.  Saturday was the day when people were to think about what they heard, reflect and get ready to vote on Sunday.  Now, can I attest that no one campaigned  – nah – and neither would you !  I will tell you that the candidate that I knew best was home with her family on Saturday and insisted there was no campaigning.

Friday night I went to the piazza not knowing what to expect.  A balcony above the square had a sound system, electronic keyboard and podium.  The posters of the first list were up.  It was drizzling and I thought who but the crazy American is going to stand in the rain, stare up at a balcony and listen to a bunch of politicians.  The whole village – that’s who!  Initially only a few cars pulled into the piazza and folks parked with the front windows facing the balcony.

Drive in electioneering!
Drive in electioneering!

An hour later the entire piazza was a drive in movie.  Cars faced the show, windows down to hear the speeches and moms running out to get pizza and drinks to go.  When the rain let up, people got out of their cars.  If they liked what they heard they honked and cheered!  This is a community that is totally involved in the political system.  Enough words – check out the video.

Going for the early and often motif – I voted on Sunday.  Clutching my certificate of eligibility to vote, I went into the school, found my district, handed in my certificate only to have an election worker stare at it, stare at me and demand my “documents”.  I had no freakin’ idea what that meant but luckily had my italian passport on me.  I handed it over, assumed an arrogant posture, and watched as the dude stared at my picture and stared at me.  Finally, with a humpf he said fine.  I signed in, was given a pencil and a paper ballot.  I went to the two foot high cubical, put my X on the circle, wrote in Mancini, folded the ballot and stuffed it in the ballot box!  Yeah, how cool is that, you actually get to stuff  a ballot box.   By the end of  a rainy Sunday about one-third of the eligible voters had voted.   About fifty-one percent  of eligible voters ultimately turned out. Can you imagine!  This was an off cycle election and people actually came out!

Monday, I had to do something.  It is impossible to just sit out an election.  So I wandered down to the polling place to watch the counting of the ballots.  In front of a crowd, each ballot is pulled out, shown to the room, the Sindaco’s name read and the consigliere’s name read.  Those names are marked and the ballot is put aside.  That means that political organizations can keep an accurate tally too.  No hanging chads here – just a big X.  I got bored after a while because doing show and tell with a couple thousands sheets of paper takes a lot longer than reading numbers off the back of a machine.  To see the final results read the numbers in the Pontelandolfo News.  http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/index.php?id=3357

A few days after the election I noticed new political posters going up.  What in the hell is this?  The election was over.  They were giant thank you notes.  Whether a ticket won or lost they thanked the voters.  Now, how nice it that!  Take heed American politicians there are lessons to be learned here.

Even though we lost we are considerate enough to say thank you!
Even though we lost we are considerate enough to say thank you!
Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you! Thank you!