The Barefoot Mayor: Local Hero Takes on Sicilian Corruption, Part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Fiona Ehlers, October 04, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

The new mayor of Messina is a man of the people. The tireless nonpartisan is known to go barefoot through the city. And in the land of Berlusconi, he is fighting against corruption, organized crime and widespread disenchantment with politics … //

… A New Kind of Politician:  

Accorinti has been mayor of the city of about 250,000, on the Strait of Messina, since June 24. He is a physical education teacher, not a party politician, and he campaigned as part of a citizens’ movement called “Let us change Messina from the bottom up.” Anyone who accompanies him is astonished by his stamina, and by the southern Italians’ newfound enthusiasm for politics.

Accorinti takes only a few steps before a crowd has formed around him. “For us, you are a second Pope Francis,” they say, addressing him in the familiar form, and showering him with hugs and kisses. Accorinti returns the sentiment by hugging, kissing and addressing them all in the familiar form. His election came unexpectedly. He was an accidental mayor, a sensation for Sicily. The island on the outermost edge of Europe is Italy’s poorest region — corrupt, clannish and a sinkhole for millions in European Union subsidies.
Most of all, however, the election is a sensation for Messina, a city where for decades municipal politics was essentially a vehicle for personal enrichment. The wives of Accorinti’s two predecessors were arrested in July for embezzling government funds. The city has a budget shortfall of €600 million ($812 million). While the Mafia is in control in Palermo and Reggio Calabria, Messina is traditionally the place where it catches its breath and plans its next move.

Accorinti is an example of how, in a country that was run into the ground for decades by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, someone can govern without scandal, pomp or grand gestures. He is a local hero, unlike the combative partisan politicians who currently make up a very shaky government in Rome.
(full text).

Part 2: Messina’s Bridge to Nowhere.


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(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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