While overshadowed by France and Greece, local elections were held in Italy over the weekend — the first since the downfall of Berlusconi and the start of Monti’s technocrat government.While the results aren’t out yet, it looks like Europe’s austerity orthodoxy is facing a strong protest vote again, though thankfully, it may be slightly less terrifying than Greece (where the Nazi-like group Golden Dawn are already causing trouble).
Opinions polls released Friday suggest that Beppe Grillo — leader of the “Cinque Stelle,” or “Five Star” — could attract around 7% of the vote, a huge showing considering the group was only formed 3 years ago.
Grillo is certainly a character. He made a name for himself as a stand-up comedian before developing a political bent on his popular blog (which also posts in English). By 2006 his blog was amongst the 20 most-read in the world, the BBC reports, and almost always the most well-read in Italy.
In 2008, the New Yorker described him as “distinctly Italian combination of Michael Moore and Stephen Colbert: an activist and vulgarian with a deft ear for political satire.” That year, two million people celebrated Grillo’s first “V-day” — which stands for “Vaffanculo” (“Fuck off”) — and Grillo told a crowd, “We are part of a new Woodstock […] Only this time the drug addicts and sons of bitches are on the other side!”
The collapse of the Berlusconi government seems to have only added fuel to Grillo’s fire. He recently branded Monti “rigour Montis”, the AP reports, and told a rally that his rivals were “melting into each other like a sickening political diarrhoea” due to their support for the technocrat government.
Brillo thrives on populism — not just against Italy’s corrupt leadership, but also against the European powers (he supports leaving the euro). And the timing may be just right. The Lega Nord — long the anti-EU protest vote for Italy’s Northern regions — is leaderless after Umberto Bossi resigned following a huge corruption scandal.
Brillo sees no way but up, telling crowds he expects to be winning 20% of the vote very soon.
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