The Sicily region has elected its first openly gay governor in a political revolution that saw the ruling conservative party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi thrashed by the left and grassroots movements.
Rosario Crocetta a devout Catholic and veteran anti-mafia campaigner, the candidate for Italy’s biggest centre-left Democratic Party party won the race for governor with 30.4 percent of votes in alliance with the Catholic UDC party .
“Today is more than an election result, it is a date with history,” Crocetta, who lives under police protection after threats to his life, told journalists.
“It’s the first time that a candidate for the left is elected as regional governor, it’s the first time that an anti-mafia candidate wins,” he said.
PD leader Pierluigi Bersani also declared Crocetta’s win “historic”.
Crocetta’s main rival from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, Nello Musumeci took 25.7 percent of ballots in an election in which of over half of eligible voters stayed away.
Sicily is traditionally a centre-right stronghold but as it had feared, the PdL suffered fallout in the regional election from Berluconi’s conviction last week for tax fraud as well as the slew of corruption, embezzlement and mafia association cases that have embroiled other party politicians.
In a further sign of voter disaffection with the scandal-hit politicians from the PdL and from parties across the political spectrum, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of maverick comedian Beppe Grillo won more votes and probably more seats than any other.
The Five Star Movement’s candidate Giancarlo Cancelleri – a surveyor who has never held political office – came in third behind the two main parties with 18.1 percent of votes cast.
But in a separate ballot for the regional assembly, the Five Star Movement led the field with less than 15 percent of a highly fragmented vote and looked set to take 15 of the 90 seats. It claimed to have spent just 25,000 euros on its campaign.
The PD and its allies were reckoned to have won 39 regional assembly seats – seven fewer than they needed for a majority which will put to the test Grillo’s vow not to cooperate with any of the traditional parties.
The elections were called in Sicily after governor Raffaele Lombardo stood down July following an indictment for mafia collusion.
Elections are also due in the Lazio region surrounding Rome after an embezzlement scandal brought down PdL-led regional government and a national election will take place in Spring 2013 (at a date to be announced).
Italy’s economic crisis is particularly acute in Sicily, which came close to bankruptcy this year, and where nearly 40 per cent of young people are unemployed.
The elections come at a time of deep political uncertainty in recession-mired Italy, with divisions and bickering within the beleaguered PdL and other main parties and frustration running high over waste and corruption among citizens hit by tough austerity measures.