Politics for mature viewers

Sunday, January 27, 2002

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- For Hungarians, who take their politics seriously, the latest news from the election front is something of a shocker: Cicciolina says she's in the race.

The former porn star and one-time Italian legislator, famous for baring her left breast in public to highlight her left-wing politics, is quite a contrast to the slate of lawyers, doctors and teachers vying for seats in the legislature.

The Hungarian-born Cicciolina -- or Ilona Staller, to use her real name -- has divided opinions here.

Some say her candidacy has injected much-needed levity into this former communist nation's decidedly buttoned-down political process. Others say it makes a mockery of Hungary at a critical crossroads.

One thing's for sure: Just about everyone is paying attention.

"The tone of the elections is shaping up to be exceptionally tough, and the humor and mirth Cicciolina could provide would be welcome in this serious mood," said Tamas Fritz, a political analyst.

Staller, 50, and the divorced mother of a young son, left Hungary in the late 1970s for Italy, where she became famous as "Cicciolina," porn film star. From 1987 to 1992, she represented the Radical Party in the Italian parliament.

Offer to Hussein

She last made international headlines before the Gulf War, when she offered to have sex with Saddam Hussein if he would free the foreigners he was holding hostage.

Although she still lives in Rome, Staller keeps tabs on her native land by watching satellite transmissions of Hungarian state television. She says she wants to help the poor, improve their education and promote better sex education in schools.

"I hope to bring bravery, sincerity and outspokenness to Hungarian politics and take the people's problems to parliament," Staller said.

She doesn't have to register her candidacy until March 15, and hasn't started campaigning, but says she has engaged an agent to check into office rentals and do other exploratory work.

Staller has her skeptics.

"Her candidacy is nonsense. She's not fit to be a politician," said 48-year-old Ferenc Kulcsar, a high school teacher living in Kobanya.

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