Italy Against the system

Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement (M5S) has continued to gain ground and strength in the wake of Renzi's defeat in the constitutional referendum

Before the surprise of Trump or Brexit, Italy had been the first warning of the impact of populist movements. The Five Star Movement –founded in 2009 by actor and comedian Beppe Grillo and Internet guru Gianroberto Casaleggio– has so far managed to win, among others, the mayorships of Rome and Turin in the recent local elections. It largely owes its expansion to the social networks and although technically not a political party, it is a “free association of citizens”, ranging from those who want to end the corruption of the traditional political system, environmentalists and those contrary to the euro to defenders of the welfare state and others wanting lower taxes. It attracts voters from both the left and the right and can embody the ideological message of anti-militarism while also defending capitalism and the restriction of immigration. Grillo came under fire for alleged racist remarks aimed at London's muslim mayor, which his defenders quickly put down to his dark humour, and that might have been the end of it had M5S not ended up as part of the same EU parliamentary group as Nigel Farage's UKIP, Britain's far-right anti-immigrant party.

However, it was the result of the referendum in December, which saw prime minister Matteo Renzi resign, that has strengthened support for M5S, which has been quick to demand new elections. Renzi's referendum was designed to avoid the constant breakdown of the Italian political system but Grillo saw in it an attempt to stifle the new wave of politics he is leading.

Beppe Grillo Actor and cofounder of the Five Star Movement
“There are no left or right wing ideas, just intelligent or stupid ideas.”

Renzi's mistake

Renzi was the EUs' hope of countering the growth of Italian populism but he himself admits he erred in making the referendum issue a personal question and was forced to resign as he had promised should it fail.

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