Anthony M. Quattrone
The primaries held by the center-left coalition on 23 January 2011 to select the candidate for the election to mayor for the city of Naples, which will take place in the spring (the date has not yet been set), has degraded into a scandal-ridden event. Andrea Cozzolino captured 37.3% of the vote, followed by Umberto Ranieri with 34.6%, by Libero Mancuso with 15.8%, and by Nicola Oddati with 12.1%. Only 1,200 votes separate the winner from the second-up. Close to 45 thousand people participated in the primaries.
Cozzolino’s success is tainted by accusations made by other candidates that he, or his supporters, acted improperly with respect to voting that took place in two districts, Secondigliano and Miano. Cozzolino lost in eight of the ten Neapolitan districts, but he won by an overwhelming margin in only two districts, allowing him to distance Ranieri by 1,200 votes. Cozzolino is supported by the former mayor of Naples and two-times President of the Campania Region, Antonio Bassolino. Ranieri is supported by the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. The third candidate, Libero Mancuso, is a former magistrate, supported by the left of the coalition. Nicola Oddati, who is the only candidate not born in Naples (he is from Salerno) is a member of the current city government headed by Rosa Russo Iervolino, where he is the assessor responsible for culture.
The accusations against Cozzolino range from having received illegitimate support from Fulvio Martusciello, a member of the center-right coalition at the Regional Council, to having “bought” votes with the help of organized crime. The national direction of the Democratic Party has taken over the Neapolitan section of the party placing it on 27 January 2011 in the hands of a commissioner, Andrea Orlando, nominated directly by Pier Luigi Bersani, in the place of Nicola Tremante. The new commissioner, who is a member of Parliament and is responsible for the party’s national commission on justice and legality, annulled the primaries and started an internal investigation regarding the allegations made by several candidates and observers.
In Italy, the system of primaries, which have been adopted during the past three election cycles only by the center-left coalition, is still in an embryonic stage. There is no formal method for identifying who is authorized to vote in the primaries. The center left party organizations set up the voting methodology, and rely on volunteers to identify voters, who may include also non-residents and those who normally vote for the center-right. Since the center-right coalition does not hold primaries, their voters are free to “influence” the primaries in the center-left coalition, because they are not forced to choose to vote in one primary versus another.
Commentators in the local press note that the evident failure of the center-left coalition that has been ruling Naples under the leadership of mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino since 2001, and the administrative failure of Bassolino’s governance of the Campania Region before Stefano Caldoro’s center-right coalition took over last March, added to latest scandal involving the primaries, make it imperative that the center-left find a candidate capable of uniting the coalition and who is completely removed from Bassolino and the “old gang”.