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Italy: Gay Gov. Challenging Berlusconi

Italy: Gay Gov. Challenging Berlusconi


The unlikely opponent for Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is Nichi Vendola, a gay poet turned governor of the Apulia region of Italy.

Vendola, whom the Italian press has somewhat jokingly dubbed "the white Obama," seems to be a viable candidate to take on Berlusconi, who barely survived the December 14 confidence vote by parliament to keep leading his People of Freedom Party, according to The Washington Post. Berlusconi has also lost favor as he has been accused of paying several women for sex, including a teenage nightclub dancer.

Vendola spent most of his political life as a communist before forming the Left Ecology Freedom Party. In 2005 he swayed the right-leaning Apulia enough to be elected governor, and he won reelection last March.

While an unidentified source told the Post that Berlusconi believes Italian Catholics would not be eager to elect a gay leader, Vendola's campaign is gathering momentum. Vendola is the most "liked" politician in Europe on Facebook, and he is known for his work to push sustainable wind and solar energy and for "Nichi's Workshops" (his first name is pronounced "Nicky") to promote social and political discussion.

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