As Italy prepares to vote in a general election on Sunday, a maverick populist party leads in the polls. The anti-establishment, Five Star Movement has tapped into voter dissatisfaction with the status quo. It has threatened to pull Italy out of the Eurozone. The question is: can a party founded by a comedian run a major European country? CGTN’s Kate Parkinson reports from Rome.
Five Star burst onto the political scene in 2009. Founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, the movement gathered momentum as he railed against everything from the euro and corruption to Italy’s rigid political and economic system.
Grillo has now taken a back seat. The new face of Five Star is Luigi di Maio. In just five years, the 31 year-old has gone from being an unemployed university dropout to the front-runner candidate for prime minister.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, di Maio announced his potential cabinet. Almost all of them are political newcomers, something that appeals to Carol Milone, who like other Five Star supporters is disillusioned and angry with Italy’s traditional political elites.
“We want a change of course,” said Milone. When I saw this team of ministers that he was presenting and I saw the kind of people who were all professional, they were all professional in their fields, the fields they are destined to work in, and I heard their vision I thought, maybe we are going to make it this time. It’s better to make an experiment, it’s better to see these people how they work that to see Berlusconi coming back.”
Most of Five Star’s campaigning has played out on social media, but a rally in Rome on Friday showed the scale of the movement’s support. Polls predict Five Star will get around 28-percent of the vote on Sunday, more than any other party. But to form a government they need 40-percent of the vote and have ruled out forming a coalition, although that could change.
“Clearly it’s the only way they are going to get into government and I think di Maio is, the young leader, is ambitious,” said Kay Wallace, a political commentator. “He would like to be prime minister, and that is the only way he is going to be prime minister so…”
Five Star has long cherished its image as the ultimate renegade. But after nearly a decade of raging against the powerful, the populist movement says it’s ready to rule – an idea that is sending shivers down the spines of Italy’s political and financial establishment – and Europe’s, as well.