The Italian Almanac

election day

Italian News - April 11

Italy's general election has been enlived by some bizarre incidents.

Mischievous to the last, Berlusconi caused a stir when he tried telling his elderly mother how to vote. The two arrived at their Milanese polling station together and after collecting their ballots, Berlusconi told 'Mama Rosa': "Put your cross here, next to Forza Italia". A local opposition leader swiftly intervened, reminding the premier that it was illegal to tell someone else how to vote. "What, not even my own mother?" Berlusconi smilingly asked, only to be greeted with a brusque negative from the representative.

But of far greater interest to many sections of the Italian public was news that members of the Big Brother reality TV show had been let out to vote. Three members of the household in Rome's Cinecitta studios were apparently hauled out of bed at 7am and driven across the country to their home polling stations, much to the excitement of local reporters. The show's organizers set up tight security restrictions to prevent the contestants coming into contact with the public, which is strictly banned under the show's rules.

The Big Brother participants weren't the only ones given a special exit permit for the elections. A group of nuns living in a cloistered convent in the central Italian town of Nocera Umbra were also granted a dispensation to briefly leave their life of silence. The five nuns - including 80-year-old Mother Bernadetta, who took her vows half a century ago - trooped out of the cloister on Monday morning, where they were met by a local priest who drove them to the nearby voting station.

Elsewhere, incidents ranged from the predictable to the downright weird.

Two kids found themselves stranded for several hours after their distracted mother dropped them off at school, forgetting it had been converted into a polling station. Over-enthusiastic voters were carted off to local police stations in two separate incidents, after they were nabbed trying to photograph their ballot cards as keepsakes.

Another man showed up at his polling station only to be turned away on the grounds that he was officially dead. The 40-year-old, a former director of a local industrialists' consortium, indignantly told reporters: "I knew I was politically unpopular but I didn't realize things had gotten that bad". The polling station called him a couple of hours later, telling him he could come in and vote as they'd realized he wasn't dead after all.

Polling officials' attempts to stick to the rules as strictly as possible led to one woman being temporarily barred from the station on the grounds that the left-wing daily tucked under her arm might "influence other people's vote".

On Sunday, an entire apartment block in Turin decided to hang red flags from their windows, expressing their support for the left. Infuriated by the move, a local representative of the right-wing National Alliance said he would be filing an official police complaint about the "red building".