Bitter divisions do not augur well for Grillo's party

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 00:00

The Grillo fairytale did not last long. The online Five Star Movement (M5S), which won an astonishing 25 per cent of the national vote at last weekend’s general election to establish itself as the third political force in the land, already seems bitterly divided.

For the 8.6 million strong army of “Grillini”, the first and most crucial question is obvious enough. What do we do with our 162 parliamentarians in a hung parliament? Surely the best bet is to go into some form of short-term coalition with the (relative) winners of the election, namely the Democratic Party (PD)?

Reforms

With the PDs, it might be possible to agree on a number of immediate reforms, principally to the electoral system, in return for concessions on issues held dear by M5S movement: the elimination of electoral expenses to the political parties, the introduction of the dole for the unemployed and “conflict of interests” legislation that would principally strike at the media empire of centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi.

That is what some of the movement’s grassroots thought until yesterday when, writing in his blog, party leader Beppe Grillo launched into insults and attacks on Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the PDs, saying: “Bersani is a political stalker. For days now, he has been making indecent proposals to the M5S rather than resigning, as anybody else in his position would do.”

Grillo said the M5S would not ally itself with any force but would evaluate the proposals, measure by measure. If they liked them, they would vote in favour. If not, they would vote against.

Online petition

Sounds simple but as an immediate, 20,000-strong online petition from the Grillo faithful pointed out, without a government there will be no legislative proposals. And for there to be a government, the M5S must align itself with the PDs. Otherwise, the alternative is some form of national coalition government involving the PDL party of Mr Berlusconi.

Viola Tesi (24), commenting on the blog, said she had voted for Grillo to effect “a gentle revolution”, adding: “This is an historic opportunity for those elected in the ranks of the M5S. We have got to eliminate any possibility of a PD-PDL alliance... That way, we can block the return of Berlusconi and force Bersani to accept some of our ideas, ideas shared by many of his own electorate.”

Bersani responded immediately to Grillo, saying if the M5S leader had anything to say to him, he should say it in parliament, thereby assuming responsibility for his actions.

Meanwhile, the outcome of the elections prompted a diplomatic incident in Germany when Italian state president Giorgio Napolitano withdrew from a meeting with the SPD’s Peer Steinbrück, a possible candidate for the chancellorship. Steinbrück this week said he was horrified Italy had voted for “two clowns”, one (Grillo) a professional clown and the other (Berlusconi) a “clown with a high level of testosterone”.