Golden pension for no-show politician’s widow

Sicily's regional parliament is paying a €1,000 a month pension to the widow of a former lawmaker who never took his seat in the assembly, officials confirmed Friday.

Golden pension for no-show politician's widow
Palazzo dei Normanni in Palermo, Sicily, where the island's Regional Parliament is based. Photo: Dzhingarova/Flickr

Before his death at the end of January, Franco Bisignano collected a total of €350,000 in pension payments despite never having done a day's work on behalf of his supposed constituents on the Italian island.

Bisignano fought the 1976 election in Messina for the far-right MSI party. He lost but challenged the winner's eligibility to stand on residence grounds.

Italy's snail-paced judicial system finally produced a definitive ruling on the case 20 years after the election and Bisignano was retrospectively declared the rightful winner. By then it was too late for him actually to take up his seat but the ruling gave him the right to a pension worth the equivalent of €1,800 a month.

The residual benefits have now been passed on to his widow, the assembly's accounts department confirmed to AFP.

The case is one of many that have become emblematic of the self-serving nature of the country's political class, although Sicily has taken steps to curb abuses.

Reforms in the 1980s linked former elected officials' pensions to the time served in the assembly and capped them in the event of the individuals having other retirement income sources.

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Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents’ rights

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday in protest against a new government directive stopping local authorities from registering the births of same-sex couples' children.

Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents' rights

“You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,” read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled the northern city’s central Scala Square.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.

Milan’s city hall had been recognising children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed earlier this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has assured residents that he will fight to have the new government directive overturned. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as “unjust and discriminatory”.

A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.

Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest on Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party came top in the September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!” she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.