In a series of moves that will not surprise those Italians who aspire to the highest ranks of the state cultural bureaucracy, a competition to select 11 superintendents for the minister of culture and fine arts has been suspended in a welter of protests both by those eliminated and those still in the running.

The competition was announced by the ministry on 24 February 2006, and was to include three written exams and one oral, but with no consideration being given for academic publications by the participants. At the first stage 48 candidates were selected out of 450; amongst the excluded were Vittorio Sgarbi and Vittoria Garibaldi, directress of the National Gallery of Umbria.

The present minister, Francesco Rutelli, then personally promoted Ms Garibaldi to the rank of director of the first grade within the ministry.

At this point, enraged by such favouritism and at the handling of the competition in general, those excluded resorted to the TAR (an administrative court) to have the competition suspended.

In the latest twist, on 6 September those who had passed the earlier stages received a registered letter from the ministry itself suspending the whole competition. They too are now taking action to reverse this decision on the grounds that the competition has been regular, and to prevent the minister from overriding the standard procedures.