The Italian Almanac
The New Councillor
Italian singer-songwriter Franco Battiato was named culture councillor in the newly elected regional government of Sicily. "Franco Battiato will be culture councillor," said Sicily Governor Rosario Crocetta of the Democratic Party (PD), who was elected late last month with 30.5% of the vote, in alliance with the centrist UDC party. Battiato, who is also a painter and filmmaker, told reporters at a press conference he was "happy to accept the position," but insisted he was not leaving art and music.
"I cannot change trades. I won't become a politician, and I don't want to have anything to do with politicians," he said. "And please don't call me councillor. Call me Franco". Battiato, a native Sicilian, is becoming a civil servant at a time when voter disaffection in the region is extremely high. Less than half of the island's eligible voters, 47%, used the ballot box, compared to 66.68% in the 2008 regional elections. Furthermore, the anti-establishment Five Star movement of comedian Beppe Grillo was the party that won most votes, 18.2%, while former premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party took a pounding amid a series of corruption scandals elsewhere in the country.
The region has also been particularly hard-hit amid Italy's recession and the euro crisis, with alarmingly high unemployment and a public debt that required a 400-million-euro stop-gap transfer from the Italian government this summer. "This region will get back on its feet," said Governor Crocetta. "But in order to do it, Sicilians need to find the courage, the strength and the drive that Franco Battiato has, showing all of his love for where he comes from".
Battiato, 67, has been one of the most popular singer songwriters in Italy for decades, known for his ecclectic use of exotic instruments and an ironic sense for lyrics. In 2004, then president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi made him an Officer of Merit, one of the country's top civilian honours.