Gay, centre-left, anti-mafia Rosario Crocetta voted governor of Sicily
Rosario Crocetta earns mob's ire for convincing businesses to stop paying protection money
A gay man who shrugged off three mafia plots to kill him is poised to become Sicily's first homosexual governor in elections that show the centre left advancing at the expense of Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing party.
Representing a coalition of Italy's centre-left Democratic Party and the Catholic UDC party, Rosario Crocetta claimed victory over against the candidate of ex-premier Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (Il Popolo della Liberta, or PDL) and a contender representing the maverick movement of comedian Beppe Grillo, who trailed in third place.
"It's the first time that a candidate for the left is elected as regional governor, it's the first time that an anti-Mafia candidate wins," declared a victorious Crocetta, 61, on Monday. "Today is more than an election result; it is a date with history."
With 75 per cent of votes counted, Crocetta, of the Democratic Party, was leading with 31 per cent, ahead of the PDL's Sebastiano Musumeci with 25 per cent, robbing the latter of what was once the centre-right's stronghold on the Mediterranean island. The outsiders, the anti-politics Five Star Movement, surprised observers by garnering 18 per cent amid rising sentiment against the established parties and anger over rampant corruption, particularly in the Mafia stronghold.
Crocetta, a devoted Catholic, has long claimed that southern Italy is surprisingly relaxed about gay politicians, once stating, "There is a great respect for the individual, making it less homophobic than the north."
In August he told an interviewer, "After leaving prison in England, Oscar Wilde took refuge in Palermo. Seen like this, there is much people have to learn about the south".
As mayor of Gela, Crocetta persuaded local businesses not to pay protection money to the mafia and claimed that coming out gave him a sense of liberation that allowed him to understand how suffocated Sicily had become under the mafia's yoke.
One mob boss who hired a Lithuanian assassin for a failed bid to kill Crocetta was less than tolerant of his sexuality than voters, describing him in a wiretapped call as "this queer communist".
A local magistrate said at the time: "The clans may ridicule Crocetta's sexuality, but it's the backing he gave businesses that refuse to pay the pizzo [protection payment] that really drove them mad."
Crocetta has suggested that a surprising number of members of Cosa Nostra are themselves gay, claiming "the idea that the mafia is all church, home and shotguns makes me laugh".
Palermo magistrate Antonio Ingroia has said he believes there are a number of gay mafia bosses, adding "It remains a taboo since they are scared of being ejected from the mob".
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse