Monday 16 July 2018

Election success for woman in hiding from the Mafia for 27 years

Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini arrives at the party headquarters in Milan for a press conference ahead of Italy’s general election results. Photo: Getty Images
Northern League party leader Matteo Salvini arrives at the party headquarters in Milan for a press conference ahead of Italy’s general election results. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Squires

An Italian woman who has been in hiding from the Mafia for 27 years and unable to show her face publicly was elected as an MP for the Five Star Movement, encapsulating the extraordinary triumph of the anti-establishment party in the country's elections.

Piera Aiello, who was dubbed "the candidate without a face" by the Italian press, won 51pc of the vote in her constituency in Sicily, despite being unable to meet voters and campaign in the streets and piazzas.

The 51-year-old ran her campaign largely through television interviews, but had to conceal her face with a scarf for fear of reprisals by the mob.

She won a resounding victory in her constituency around the town of Marsala in western Sicily, 20 percentage points ahead of her nearest rival.

Ms Aiello grew up in western Sicily, where as a teenager she met a boy who happened to be the son of a local Mafia boss, who forced her into marriage with the young man.

After her husband was killed by a rival clan in 1991, Ms Aiello fled Sicily and became a pentita (state witness), giving the authorities information about the Mafia family and its criminal activities.

Now she has been elected, she says she will come out of hiding. "It will be like seeing the light again," she told the Italian press.

The success of Five Star was echoed by another unusual case, after a candidate who was suspended from the party and withdrew from campaigning over an expenses scandal ended up being elected with 35pc of the vote.

Andrea Cecconi, known as the "ghost candidate", beat Marco Minniti, the interior minister and architect of deals with Libya that have been credited with drastically cutting the number of migrant boats reaching Italy. Mr Minniti is from the governing centre-left Democratic Party (PD), which won just 19pc of the votes in the election.

The party is now in danger of tearing itself apart over whether to forge an alliance with Five Star, which took 32pc of the vote, so that a government can be formed.

Matteo Renzi, who has said he will resign as head of the party after a government is formed, is implacably opposed to a deal with Five Star, saying they hold "extremist" views on Europe, immigration and other issues.

"They're anti-European, anti-political and have used a language of hatred," he wrote on Facebook.

"They said we were corrupt, mafiosi, and that we have blood on our hands because of immigration. I don't think they've changed their mind overnight."

Others within the Democratic Party are in favour of a coalition.

While Five Star swept to victory in southern Italy, the north supported a centre-right coalition consisting of the hard-right League and Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which secured 37pc of the vote.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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