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Nicola (Nichi) Vendola (born 26 August 1958), is an Italianmarker politician and the president of Apuliamarker region.

Life

Born in Terlizzimarker, province of Bari, Vendola has been a member of the Communists Youth Federation since the age of 14, he studied literature in university, presenting a dissertation about the controversial poet and movie director Pier Paolo Pasolini. He then went on to become a journalist for L'Unità, 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 and joined the Communist Refoundation Party.

In 1992 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies and has held his seat ever since. As a member of the Antimafia Commission, he came to prominence as a strong opponent of the Mafia and organised crime.

In 2005 he ran for the first primary election ever held in Italy, called to choose the left-wing L'Unione alliance's candidate for the presidency of the Pugliamarker 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 and homosexual could be elected president of a southern Italian region such as Apulia, generally considered to be conservative and strongly Catholic. Vendola, though, declares himself as "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 Puglia, held in April 2005, he narrowly defeated the outgoing president Raffaele Fitto, candidate for House of Freedoms, thus becoming 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.

Vendola was one of the two major candidates running for the place of Chairman of the Communist Refoundation party in the July 2008 congress, but lost to an alliance led by the other major candidate, Paolo Ferrero, formerly minister in the last Prodi cabinet. Following the defeat, Vendola's supporters have renounced to all positions as party executives. On January 24th, 2009, at Chianciano Terme, he founded Rifondazione per la Sinistra, a new party.

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