So, remember when I wrote about the powerful Lega Nord and their dirty, frightening politics? Well, for the Milan mayoral runoffs between Letizia Moratti (Berlusconi's right-wing candidate) and Giuliano Pisapia (the center left candidate) they unleashed their worst yet. Posters all over town saying the Milan would become a "zingaropoli" or gypsy-opolis, if Pisapia won, that he would let the immigrants take control, that he would construct the biggest mosque in Europe (gasp), that taxes would go up, police would disappear, and the apocalypse would descend. The posters of the Popolo della Libertà begged, "Don't leave our city in the hands of the Left!" Months of campaigning and millions of euros spent, especially by the right, and it all came down to this weekend, a test not just for the Milan government but also for Berlusconi's party.
And guess what? They lost.
For the first time in 20 years, a center-left candidate, Giuliano Pisapia, has been elected mayor of Milan. The city which gave birth to Silvio has dealt him a crushing and humiliating blow.
The word that comes to mind when I think of how the city reacted: jubilantly. Piazza del Duomo and the center began filling with people dressed in orange, the color of Pisapia's campaign. There were signs and ballons and vuvuzelas. We headed downtown, and I hadn't seen the place so alive and happy since Inter won Champions League. As night fell, the crowds began to sing and chant:
Chi non salta Berlusconi è!
Giuliano libera Milan!
De Corato disoccupato!
Pisapia uno di noi!
Our friends had climbed up onto the statue of Vittorio Emmanuele in the Piazza Duomo, and we clambered up after them. From this view we could see over the heads of the thousands of people who had filled the piazza, as well as the stage where musicians performed and eventually Pisapia, emotional and heartfelt, addressed the crowd. Strangers gave me high fives and grinned and shouted. There was hope and celebration in the air, and I felt an echo of the emotions of election night 2008. Like Obama, Pisapia harnessed the power of the young and the internet, put on a saddle of hope and change, and rode to victory. His slogan was even similar: Cambiare si può, we can change. More green, more integration, more opportunity, more attention, more bikes, less smog. I only wish I could see if it all comes to fruition.
Here are some images from the evening:
Referring to Berlusconi's quip that whoever votes for the left has no brain, this signore carries a sign that says, in dialect, "Tonight I brought it." Below, a woman with a sign "I'm dirty and without a brain, my name is not Ruby, and when I vote, I rebel," also referring to statements made by the Prime Minister.