Archive for Times

A phone call you can’t refuse

Posted in G2 with tags , , , , , on March 17, 2008 by Roberto Gravitazero

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Mentioned in Massimo Morelli blog, I’ve found a noteworthy article published in Time by Roberto Saviano, in which he talks about the Mob influence on political life and elections in Italy. Saviano is a journalist, renowned for his best-selling book Gomorrah in which he exposed the activities of the Camorra (Naples mafia-like crime organization). He now lives under police protection. I recommend the article not just to non-Italians willing to better understand our country, but to Italians as well. It’s remarkable how I keep finding the most objective and informative pieces of informations on Italian politics in foreign newspapers. I report below an interesting passage:

Too many elections in Italy are won, even today, by the time-tested process of buying votes. It is an especially formidable weapon in the south, where high unemployment is so endemic that many ambitious young people emigrate to the more prosperous north or abroad. When I was a kid in the 1980s, an individual’s vote tended to cost more than it does today. It might have been worth a job at the post office, say, or in public administration or a school or hospital. By the time I grew up, votes were typically sold for far less: telephone and electricity bills paid for the two months before and one month after an election. In the last few ballots, the new bait has been the cell phone. Someone shows up and gives you one before the election, and you can keep it if you come back with a photo on this new, shiny handset showing your ballot marked for the right candidate. The phones, which are worth about $75 apiece, are even conveniently set up to snap the pictures silently. The fluctuating value of a vote seems to have returned to its level in the 1950s, when the businessman-mayor of Naples, Achille Lauro, offered packs of pasta and a new left shoe before an election. The right shoe could be collected afterward upon proof that the correct choice had been made.

I had many occasions to despise and condemn the inordinate passion shown by my fellow countrymen for cell phones.

One more reason to continue to do so.