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Franco Metta, mayor of Cerignola
Franco Metta, mayor of Cerignola
Massimo Gramellini

CERIGNOLA — Franco Metta is the mayor of the small town of Cerignola, located in the southern Italian region of Apulia. He recently received a box of biscuits as a Christmas gift from a local businessman, but upon opening the box he discovered 20,000 euros ($21,120) expertly rolled into two packs of 10,000 each — not the gift the sweet-toothed mayor was expecting. The mayor immediately filed a complaint with the local police, accusing the businessman of bribing him to gain favor to win a contract for his company.

Metta is the same mayor who briefly rose to prominence six months ago for controversial remarks he made at a public ceremony. In a poorly-filmed video, the mayor — well-dressed and wearing an Italian tricolor sash — berates a child for flunking and repeating his year in school, shouting at him to "study, stupid!"

In Cerignola — Photo: Janssem Cardoso

Metta's brusque tone and methods drew the ire of many Italians, who cast him as a villain also in part for his conservative party ties. The child himself was far less upset and hugged the mayor for another minute, surprised to encounter someone who was willing to reprimand him.

Metta was made out as a villain for lecturing the child, and hailed as a hero for refusing the bribe — but what if the two events are connected? In large cities we go on constantly about the importance of so-called "values', perhaps to fight the toxic smog seeping in. But out in the provinces, or at least in Cerignola, "values' are something far more simple and less ethereal: study and don't steal. Come to think about it, it's a perfect policy for the future.

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Geopolitics

What Lula Needs Now To Win: Move To The Center And Mea Culpa

Despite the leftist candidate's first-place finish, the voter mood in Brazil's presidential campaign is clearly conservative. So Lula will have to move clearly to the political center to vanquish the divisive but still popular Jair Bolsonaro. He also needs to send a message of contrition to skeptical voters about past mistakes.

Brazilian votes show a polarized national opinion with two clear winners: former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and sitting president Jair Bolsonaro

Marcelo Cantelmi

-Analysis-

The first round of Brazil's presidential elections closed with two winners, a novelty but not necessarily a political surprise.

Leftist candidate and former president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, was clearly the winner. His victory came on the back of the successes of his two previous administrations (2003-2011), kept alive today by the harsh reality that large swathes of Brazilians see no real future for themselves.

Lula, the head of the Workers Party or PT, also moved a tad toward the political Center in a bid to seduce middle-class voters, with some success. Another factor in his first-round success was a decisive vote cast against the current government, though this was less considerable than anticipated.

The other big winner of the day was the sitting president, Jair Bolsonaro. For many voters, his defects turn out to be virtues. They were little concerned by his bombastic declarations, his authoritarian bent, contempt for modernity, his retrograde views on gender and his painful management of the pandemic. They do not believe in Lula, and envisage no other alternative.

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