|President of Apulia|
27 April 2005 – 26 June 2015
|Preceded by||Raffaele Fitto|
|Succeeded by||Michele Emiliano|
|Member of the Chamber of Deputies|
23 April 1992 – 3 May 2005
15 March 2013 – 16 April 2013
|Born||26 August 1958|
|Political party||Italian Left|
|Domestic partner||Edward Testa (since 2004)|
|Alma mater||University of Bari|
|Profession||politician, journalist, writer|
|Website||2010 - Nichi Vendola|
Nicola "Nichi" Vendola (Italian pronunciation: [ˈniːki ˈvɛndola]; born 26 August 1958) is an Italian left-wing politician and LGBT activist who was a Member of the Chamber of Deputies from Apulia from 1992 to 2005 and President of Apulia from 2005 to 2015. He is one of the first openly LGBT Italian politicians and the first openly LGBT heads of a regional government in Italy.
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 came out as gay in 1978, and 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.
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.
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 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 over either Democratic Party Secretary Pier Luigi Bersani or Silvio Berlusconi, then Prime Minister of Italy. But came third in the primaries held on 25 November 2012 Vendola ranked third among the 5 candidates with 485,689 votes totaling 15.6%, failing to access the ballot.
In the general election of 2013 Vendola was the candidate of Apulia for the Chamber of deputies, being elected for the 5th time. On 6 March 2013, however, he announced that he would remain in charge of the Puglia Region, thus renouncing the seat in the Chamber. On 10 April 2013 he formalized his resignation as a deputy.
Unable to apply for a third time as president of the region, in 2015 Vendola supported the former mayor of Bari Michele Emiliano who would went on to win the election with 47% of the votes.
On 17 December 2016, Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) was dissolved and merged with the Italian Left, on 19 February 2017.
In May 2021, Vendola was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison, due to involvement in the Ilva scandal.
During his political career he received insults related to his homosexuality. In 2012 he was insulted by a minister of Ferrara of the Democratic Party, Luigi Marattin. In October 2013 Alessandro Morelli, leader of the Lega Nord at the comune of Milan, published an image of Vendola on Facebook with the words "Gay and pedophile". The next day Morelli apologized.
Vendola has lived with his partner Edward "Ed" Testa since 2004. In 2016, the couple used surrogacy in California to have a baby, Tobia Antonio. 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 is a devout Roman Catholic, although he opposes many of the church's social positions.
On 17 October 2018, Vendola had a heart attack, but he is in no danger after being fitted with a stent at Rome's Gemelli Hospital.