Born in Terlizzi, in the province of Bari, on 26 August 1958, Vendola was a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation from the age of fourteen. He went on to study literature at his university, presenting a dissertation on the poet and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Vendola became a journalist for l'Unità. He became an activist and a leading member of the Italian gay organisation Arcigay. A member of the National Secretariat of the Italian Communist Party, he fiercely opposed the dissolution of the party proposed by Achille Occhetto in 1991. This led to the formation of the Democratic Party of the Left. Vendola instead joined the Communist Refoundation Party.
In 1992, Vendola was elected to the Chamber of Deputies, to a seat which he held until 2005. As a member of the Antimafia Commission, he came to prominence as a strong opponent of the Mafia and organised crime presence in the economy and society.
Nichi Vendola is an Italian left-wing politician and LGBT activist who was President of Apulia from 2005 to 2015. Vendola's partner is Canadian Eddy Testa, freelance graphic designer and creative consultant. Testa studied design and communication at Concordia University in Montreal, Ottawa University and Urbino. He made a show VianDante (Dante on the way) - trip from Paradise to Hell and return, and worked as an art director for "Nichi's Factories".
In 2005, Vendola ran for the first primary election ever held in Italy, held by the centre-left coalition The Union to choose their candidate for the presidency of the Apulia region. He won the primary over the rival Francesco Boccia. Many moderates in the alliance criticised the choice, since it appeared impossible that a communist homosexual could be elected president of a southern Italian region such as Apulia, generally considered to be conservative and strongly Catholic. Vendola identifies as a "believer" (in the line of Pax Christi): he once said that "the most important book for a communist like me is the Bible".
In the regional election in Apulia, held in April 2005, he narrowly defeated the incumbent president Raffaele Fitto, candidate for the centre-right coalition the House of Freedoms. He was the first member of the Communist Refoundation Party to be elected as president of any Italian region.
Vendola is also a poet: some of his poems have been collected in a book, named L'ultimo mare ("The last sea"). His figure has inspired a biographical film, Nichi.
In the July 2008 party congress, Vendola was one of the two major candidates running for the place of Chairman of the Communist Refoundation party; he lost to an alliance led by the other major candidate, Paolo Ferrero, formerly Minister for Social Solidarity in the Prodi II Cabinet. Following the defeat, Vendola's supporters have renounced all positions as party executives.
On 24 January 2009, at Chianciano Terme, Vendola split from Communist Refoundation and founded the Movement for the Left. In December 2009, Vendola became the first leader of the newly founded party Left Ecology Freedom, which the Movement for the Left had merged into.
In late 2009, his candidacy for re-election was questioned by his centre-left allies from the Democratic Party. They asked him to step down in order to allow the choice of a candidate able to achieve wider support from other political parties, namely the Christian-democratic Union of the Centre. After Vendola refused to step down, chances of having a new primary election quickly increased.
After some weeks of heated debate, elections were called for 24 January 2010. Supported by the Democratic Party, Francesco Boccia ran as Vendola's challenger. Vendola easily won the election with more than 67% of the votes, was picked again as leader of the centre-left coalition, and went on to defeat centre-right candidate Rocco Palese by a wide margin.
In July 2010, during a general congress of the so-called "Factories of Nichi", Vendola announced his candidacy for the Primary Elections of the Italian centre-left. This voting was expected to foreshadow what might be expected in the 2013 Italian general elections. Nationwide polls showed Vendola winning either over either Democratic Party Secretary Pier Luigi Bersani or Silvio Berlusconi, then Prime Minister of Italy.
Nichi Vendola. Comizi d'amore (Italian) by L. Telese
Publisher: Aliberti (January 1, 2010)
Amazon: Nichi Vendola. Comizi d'amore (Italian)
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