IN their first direct vote for mayor, Palermo's citizens overwhelmingly elected a well-known opponent of the Mafia and the country's entrenched system of political party bosses.
Leoluca Orlando returns to office after an appointed term in the late 1980s and promises to make Palermo, a city long identified with Cosa Nostra, "normal."
Mr. Orlando and his supporters say they hope to "liberate" Palermo by giving it an efficient, clean government. But their aspirations extend beyond Sicily to the rest of Italy, which has also become weary of politics as usual. If the new mayor can break the Mafia's economic grip in its stronghold and demolish the equally clannish party patronage system in a city like Palermo, they say, he will show the rest of the country that real change is possible.
"He's an honest person," says Fabio Omodei, a young person who worked on the Orlando campaign. "He hasn't disappointed us yet."
Orlando won the support of 3 out of 4 voters, at a time when basic city services, such as running water, have been seriously neglected and when unemployment is running at nearly 30 percent. In his 28-page program, he detailed plans to rebuild the city by improving the schools and other city services, creating conditions for new jobs, and generally making the government more responsive to its citizens.
In a prelude to Italy's expected parliamentary elections in 1994, Orlando's was the only outright mayoral victory in Italy's major cities.
Across the country, voters resoundingly defeated the Christian Democratic Party (DC), Italy's leading political force, which has been deeply implicated in the country's continuing bribery and corruption scandal. Orlando left the DC a few years ago to form the Rete, a small national party based in Palermo.
Candidates in the rest of the country are back on the campaign trail in a bid to win the Dec. 5 runoff elections. In Rome, Naples, Genoa, Venice, and Trieste, left-of-center candidates won about 40 percent of the vote. Fifty percent was required to win under the direct mayoral election system introduced earlier this year.
Many Italians express alarm at the support given by about a third of the voters in Rome and Naples to neo-Fascist candidates, who capitalized on concerns about maladministration in those cities.
The size of Orlando's Nov. 21 victory surprised even his supporters. The last opinion poll before the election gave him only 52 percent of the vote. …