[photo: Jacques posing near an electoral poster in Agrigento: very amusing wording]
An unexpected extra to my holiday in Sicily was the electoral campaign for regional (and some local) elections. I will never forget the scene that greeted us in Comiso when we arrived totally by chance on our way to Ragusa. As we arrived the sun was beginning to make preparations to set giving that warm late afternoon glow to Comiso, a town that unfortunately does not have much to offer. We parked our car on a main thoroughfare after having cruised slowly through the main streets. Our intention was to stop for a little stretch of the legs before we could continue on our trip.
There was a weird hustle and bustle around town. The first noticeable thing was the almost complete absence of females. Anywhere. The only ladies to be seen where those buying vegetables at the store. Everywhere else one could see men of all ages. There was an electric feeling in the stares, the walks and the gatherings around us. At first I could not make head or tail of it but then it all came back in one big flashback to the hot political moments in my home island.
It turned out that the main concentration points of human beings was around the various candidates’ appointed centres for meeting people. You could see the huddle of old men smoking pipes and toscanelli outside the Casa del Popolo just across the road from the other group of old men sitting defiantly around the UDC candidates’ room. Further down the road a group of yuppies di Comiso hung around a banner of Forza Italia saluting passers-by who obviously were driving up and down the main road on the motorini. Nothing much was happening. Just a lot of sitting about and demonstrations of number – if a group of ten to fifteen people around each centre could be called a demonstration.
The Vigile Urbano (traffic policeman) who approached me to sell me my parking ticket (yes you buy these off police apparently) seemed as surprised as the rest of Comiso’s happening crowd to see tourists in these parts. I felt like a subbuteo piece that had suddenly fallen in the middle of the chessboard with all the pieces in place ready for full frontal war. We were saved by one of the Forza Italia candidates who arrived in a black car and black suit to match to be immediately surrounded by suitors baciandolemani and kow-towing around him – we could sleek away unnoticed and away from this quasi-surreal picture that was causing weird nostalgic feelings in my mind.
The more the weekend approached the more of these scenes I witnessed. In Agrigento, in Enna, in Siracusa and Ragusa, from Pozzallo to Pachino to Porto Empedocle the posters were out, the promises were being thrown about and the temprary ideologies were being fabricated out of the bubbling point of electoral fervour.
The day I left Sicily people were out voting for what turned out to be the election with the greatest turnout in recent years. I only managed to hear something about the Palermo election where Leoluca Orlando was complaining about some coercion and vote rigging. truth is I was not much interested in the outcome – I had only been tickled by the intensity of the campaign – an intensity I had been wrong to suppose existed only in Malta.