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Catfight in the Italian parliament? PDF Print E-mail
Nov 24, 2010 at 08:07 PM

Carfagna vs. Mussolini

Well, I am exaggerating. Sort of. They didn't come to blows but this week news reports here were full of an almost violent verbal altercation between two Neapolitan women politicians, Mara Carfagna, minister of Equal Opportunity in the Berlusconi cabinet, and Alessandra Mussolini, an MP who not to long ago transferred her political affections from a far right party to Berlusconi's PdL.

It all started - on the floor of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Italian Parliament --when the somewhat blowsy Mussolini (a granddaughter of Italy's inter-war dictator, a former model and would-be actress and niece of actress Sophia Loren) used her cell phone to take a photo of Carfagna, also a former model and showgirl, while she was engrossed in conversation with Italo Bocchino, a close friend of hers who is a top leader of the new party recently formed by Berlusconi's rival, Gianfranco Fini. "Vergogna! (Shame!), Traitor!", Mussolini reportedly screamed across the chamber, apparently assuming that Carfagna was planning to jump ship.

The next day Carfagna got her own back, heavily criticizing Mussolini for her intemperance and referring to her as a "vajassa" (vay-assa), in Neapolitan dialect a word that mean a fishwife, probably unkempt. That set Mussolini off again with threats to cover the waifer-thin Carfagna with insults to her face the next time she saw her and (but this was weird) to no longer vote yes on a confidence vote that the Berlusconi government, currently fighting for its survival, has scheduled for December 14th. (Now she's changed her mind on this.)

Carfagna, extremely beautiful but increasingly anorexic looking, had already decided to leave the party, the cabinet and possibly the parliament after the 14th. But while it would be useless to go further here into the complexities of the fractured Italian political situation, there is also something more concrete behind all this.

Mara Carfagna has accused Berlusconi of allowing the party to turn into a collection of warring bands with economic interests, especially in her native region of Campania where the party chief, Nicola Cosentino, has been charged by magistrates with contacts with the Camorra but remains in Parliament because that august body (dominated by the Berlusconi group) refused to authorize a trial.

In particular, she was incensed by the Cabinet's decision, as requested by Cosentino, to take responsibility for the construction of a much-needed thermoelectric incinerator in Salerno away from that municipality and give it to the provincial government.

Should the plant ever get built (readers know what a mess the garbage problem is in and around Naples), this will be quite a lucrative affair but aside from that, Salerno presently has a more more efficient local government than most other places in the area. (After the dispute, the president of the Campania region, Stefano Caldoro, stepped in and said for now, at least, the Regional government would handle the matter).

Carfagna reportedly has very strong feelings about the refuse mess and, it is said, is planning a run for mayor of Naples next spring. Mussolini won't like that but a lot of other people will.

P.S. I kind of hate myself for mentioning, like the Italian media always does, that the 35-year old Carfagna was a showgirl and before that a beauty queen: she came in sixth in the 1997 Miss Italia contest. After all, why should that disqualify a woman for later on making something more of herself? Many Italian women seem to have forgotten about feminism and continue to enjoy being sexual objects and interestingly enough in the past, both women in this case posed for sexy for-men-only calendars. But there is more to Carfagna than that, since in 2001, she received, with top honours, a law degree from the University of Salerno with a thesis on law as regarding information and broadcasting systems.

Far more damaging to her reputation is the allegation that it was her relationship with Berlusconi that got her started as a TV program host at Italian State Television in 2001. And even worse, there are said to be tapes from a few years after that indicating that she provided sexual favors to Berlusconi around the time she was first elected to parliament in 2006. On the other hand, Berlusconi is not stupid and I certainly don't think he would appoint a person to his cabinet who is not capable just because she performed a sexual act. What is unclear is whether Carfagna had a relationship with Berlusconi because she knew he could help her career or if, perhaps, she simply liked this man who, despite all his faults, is undeniably dynamic and jovial. Today, she may well be a wiser (and possibly sadder) woman and, hopefully, one with better taste. [Today Carfagna announced that on May 13, she will be marrying her current beau, builder Marco Mezzaroma.]



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