Politicians' antics give Ticino a bad name

Flavio Maspoli, Giuliano Bignasca and Filippo Lombardi have all had brushes with the law (montage swissinfo) swissinfo.ch

Parliamentarians from Italian-speaking Ticino worry that scandals involving local politicians are giving the canton a bad name.

This content was published on October 3, 2003 - 09:58

The latest embarrassment came on Monday, when Ticino senator, Filippo Lombardi - who has been stripped of his driving licence four times - was convicted of speeding.

Meinrado Robbiano, a member of parliament from Ticino, is visibly worried about the consequences of the scandal on the southern canton’s image. “I’m speechless,” he says, arms held up in a hopeless gesture.

In April, Lombardi’s car was caught on a motorway camera going 35 kilometres over the 80kmh speed limit.

The office of the Christian Democrat senator claimed the car was being driven by his chauffeur at the time.

But photographs on the speed camera later showed that Lombardi himself had been at the wheel.

“A mix-up by my secretary [when she filled in the form],” said Lombardi, who has previously had his licence taken away - on one occasion for drunk driving.

The senator was sentenced to a 20-day suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay a fine of SFr2,000 ($1,516) for his latest offence.

Banana republic

Lombardi is one of three Ticino politicians to have had a brush with the law – out of a total of ten representatives from the region.

Flavio Maspoli and Guiliano Bignasca, both from the rightwing Lega dei Ticinese, have also ended up in court.

Maspoli has in his time been convicted for numerous offences, including forging signatures on a petition needed for a referendum. Bignasca has also been found guilty of forging official documents and drug taking.

A member of rightwing Swiss Peoples’ Party, who wishes to remain anonymous, is none too impressed by the antics of his colleagues from Ticino, a region he likens to a “banana republic”.

“All we need now is for another two Ticino politicians to be elected on October 19, and there’ll be enough of them to form their own political wing for criminals!” he says.

The Social Democratic Party also takes a dim view of the latest debacle.

“Too many people have belittled Lombardi’s actions,” says Christine Goll. “But what happens to law and order if they are not even respected by elected representatives?”

“We wouldn’t forgive such an offence in my canton,” echoes Hans-Rudolf Merz, a centre-right Radical from German-speaking canton Appenzell.

Caricatures

But the centre-right parliamentarian, Felix Gutzwiller, says the incidents have been over-dramatised.

“The two Lega representatives in parliament are almost like caricatures – they are not representative of Ticino as a whole,” he says, adding that Lombardi should not be put in the same league.

“Driving too fast is partly down to the Latin temperament.”

Lombardi’s party has been conspicuously silent on the subject – and has removed their colleague from the party’s governing board.

Parliamentarians from other parties are less circumspect. “I think Lombardi should resign, to prevent other politicians from Ticino being tarnished with the same brush,” says Cecile Bühlmann of the Green Party.

swissinfo, Daniele Papacella (translation: Vanessa Mock)

Key facts

Christian Democrat politician Filippo Lombardi was convicted of speeding and of driving without a licence and given a 20-day prison sentence.
He has resigned from his party’s governing board.
Lombardi is one of 10 parliamentarians from Ticino; three of them have broken the law.

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