Nichi Vendola, a gay, ex-communist governor, becomes the unlikely rival to Italy's Berlusconi.
In 1992 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, to a seat which he held until 2005. As a member of the Antimafia Commission, he came to prominence as a strong opponent of the Mafia and organized crime.
In 2005 he ran for the first primary election ever held in Italy, called to choose the left-wing L'Unione alliance's candidate for the presidency of the Puglia region. He won the primary over the rival Francesco Boccia. Many moderates in the alliance criticised the choice, since it appeared impossible that a communist and homosexual could be elected president of a southern Italian region such as Apulia, generally considered to be conservative and strongly Catholic. Vendola, though, declares himself as "believer" (in the line of Pax Christi): he once said that "the most important book for a communist like me is the Bible".
In the regional election in Puglia, held in April 2005, he narrowly defeated the outgoing president Raffaele Fitto, candidate for House of Freedoms, thus becoming the first member of the Communist Refoundation Party to be elected as president of any Italian region.
In July 2010, during a general congress of the so-called "Factories of Nichi", Mr. Vendola announced his candidacy for the Primary Elections of the Centre-Left, to be held in 2012 to appoint the challenger of Berlusconi in the 2013 Italian political elections. Following his candidacy, the Democratic Party judged sharply his candidacy, while nation-wide polls show Vendola winning either over Pierluigi Bersani, Secretary of DP, and Silvio Berlusconi, incumbent Prime Minister.
Read more about Nichi Vendola here.
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