As anti-gay Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faces a confidence vote due, in part, to his infamous dalliances with numerous prostitutes, his possible replacement appears to be Nichi Vendola, the openly gay governor of the southern Italian state of Apulia. Via Washington Post:
The governor of Apulia, a region in the heel of the Italian boot, wore a gray checked suit, purple paisley scarf and glittering black shoes strapped with Velcro. From his left ear hung a sparkling diamond hoop given to him by his partner, Ed. Around his left thumb he wore a gold band, the gift of a southern fisherman upon winning his first shock-the-establishment election. “Nichi!” yelled a woman who ran up to shake the graying 52-year-old’s hand. “You speak the truth!” Farther down Rome’s broad Via del Tritone, a class of high school students looked up stunned and squealed, “Ciao, Nichi!” A deeper voice shouted from across the street, “Get rid of them all, Nichi!” Vendola, who nonchalantly assesses himself as “beloved,” smiled the drowsy-eyed grin of a man who has seen all this adoration before. But this crisp December morning was different. Inside the Montecitorio palace, the lower house of Parliament and Vendola’s destination, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faced a career-threatening confidence vote. Many of the frustrated Italians gathering in the surrounding squares hoped this gay, Catholic, ex-communist poet whom the media has dubbed – partly in jest and partly in earnest – “the white Obama” would take the premier’s place. Improbably, Vendola is positioned to become the next leader of Italy.
Vendola says that in Italy, Catholicism is “more cultural than religious” and he even counts nuns among his supporters. But according to the above-linked story, Vendola is a frequent target of television comedians who mock his lisp and his meandering, metaphor-laden style of speaking. A regular feature in one newspaper is a column titled, “Nichi, What The Hell Are You Talking About?”