Interview:A Palestinian candidate mayor in Padova

New Europe

New Europe spoke during the electoral campaign for the administrative election with Salim El Maoued, candidate mayor of Padova with an independent civic list. El Maoued, who speaks Arabic, Italian and English, was born in Palestine and studied medicine in Padova, he then got a job as “family doctor” in the northern city. The name of his list is “ Padova di Tutti “ which is composed by trade unionists, women and members of associations and foreign communities. Among the political proposals in his program El Maoued wants to create a “ survival income “ for people earning less that 1000 Euros per month, this measure could help among others: families in need and business owners hit by the crisis.

New Europe:What was the starting point of your political career and how you decided to put in place a list and run for mayor here in Padova?

Salim El Maoued:My political engagement starts many years ago with my support for the Palestinian cause then five years ago after seeing what was going on at local, national and also international level regarding people in need and mostly immigrants I founded an association called “Stella Polare”. This initiative was putting together experiences by:people coming from many different countries: Africa, the middle east and Asia, but also Italian born sons of immigrants that experienced a difficult life here in Italy. From here I saw the need to answer to different needs and try to solve problems that were growing day by day, this group was founded not only by me but by many other people. During this period we discussed about many issues and not only topics related to immigration, we treated problems and topics peculiar to the city of Padova then we decided to create a civic, completely independent list in order to implement the plans that we started to discuss five years ago.

NE:We see that in your list of candidates there are also Italians, why?

SELM:I didn’t want to reduce all this political project only to immigrants, I think that insert also Italians was very important because in my vision for the future, a meaningful politics must be inclusive, all together we have to work in order to create something important. This never happened before, Padova is not a “easy” city to manage then even if we have one of the oldest university in there world there is still a sort of diffidence for people coming from outside, in the past it was regarding immigrants coming from the south of Italy. I hope that that one day Padova could accept this inclusive projects, may be now the time is not ready, maybe in the future . For sure this is a city with a lot of sons of immigrants who is also mutating, it has different cultures and it is not a static city and also the political future will be multi-ethnic.

NE: Did you meet in Italy with other “non-italian” politicians during this period?

SELM:In these years I was in contact with lots of politicians from different origin: Africans, Syrians, Moroccans, Egyptian, they were in Rome, Treviso, Vicenza, Bergamo, Milano and Sicily. The issue is that I never saw elsewhere a so relevant and independent political project and this is our real strength here.

NE: Are you from the left or from the right?

SELM:We are a new political project, this has the potential to be a real structured political party but we should work with a bigger community, from the political point of view we will never be from center-right of center-left because the “classical” party still didn’t understand this change that it is going on now in front of us. This political project is different because we have different needs and we manage the problems of our city in a different way. We are fighting for young citizens without a political representation and I hope to find citizens in other cities and hopefully we could work together. What we miss not is a structure able to put together everybody, we can be the third political party in this country. On the other hand from the immigrants and second generation Italian born citizens to talk about left and right doesn’t make sense, they don’t have our political references because they are coming from other political contexts.

NE:Talking now about numbers, how many immigrant we have here with vote power? And how many in the next years?

SELM:In Padova now there are 18.000 citizens then in the future they could be three times more. The active electoral force of the immigrants in the next years is going to be very strong, they are young and they have a strong motivation to work hard to create a better society.

NE:You travelled a lot during these years, what is according to you the most important element to create integration? How is it possible integrate immigrants communities that here in Padova are divided?

SELM:There is not integration without knowledge not only from the linguistic point of view, when immigrants gets the citizenship they don’t do a cultural path. We have to re-establish certain values, they have to be more attached to the values of the hosting country. It is not easy here in Padova, you have to know the different culture of each country but there are points of convergence. I see clearly the will to do something positive for Padova, what is lacking is a true structure that keep all these different energies together. For me it is easier to work with them than to collaborate with groups or realities from Padova.

NE:If you are going to have seats in the city council which are the most interesting political areas for you?

SELM:At Padova level for sure the suburbs, the real problem is there especially from the economic and social point of view, we have to work more on integration. In the suburbs we can really change the city and do something important. We experienced that immigrants families in the suburbs are asking for more security but we need concrete solutions. There are a lot of issues but politics in Padova is very far from the real problems of families without an adequate health assistance for example. Immigrants need more cultural and linguistic mediators for example in the hospitals, we need professionals able to speak different languages in order to help others, the problem is that the funds were cut to support an efficient assistance strategy also with trainings to help immigrants. Even if Padova is governed by a centre-left coalition, I think there is a lack of interest in Padova on these important issues, I have never seen a mayor here who was engaged in a serious dialogue with the foreign communities, this also means going to the different celebrations and ceremonies. I also hope that there will be the possibility to develop some projects financed by the European Union, it would be nice to create a cultural centre designed for the second generation of Italians open to all, we need multicultural places where people can meet.

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