Italian Voters Punish Berlusconi, Flock to Anti-Euro Bloc

Italy Must Exit Euro, Not Pay Debt, Comic Turned Politician Says
Comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo's 5 Star Movement may emerge as Italy’s third-biggest political force in local elections. Photographer: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

The candidate of comic-turned politician Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement, which opposes the austerity policies of Prime Minister Mario Monti, was elected mayor of the Italian city of Parma, results show.

Federico Pizzarotti won 60.1 percent of votes in the second round of the election to 39.9 percent for Vincenzo Bernazzoli, candidate for the Democratic Party, according to results posted on Parma’s municipal website, with 98 percent of polling stations reporting.

Grillo’s party is the latest to profit from rising anger in Europe over tax increases, budget cuts and joblessness amid the sovereign debt crisis. His candidates also won mayoral seats in some smaller cities, their best showing since the movement was started in October 2009, as it benefited in the industrial north from a party-financing scandal that hit the Northern League and prompted the resignation of its leader Umberto Bossi and other top officials.

“This is a sign that Italians are willing to change,” said Pizzarotti, 39. “It shouldn’t be read in negative terms as being against something, but should be seen as being for something.”

Sicilian Results

The Democratic Party’s candidate in Palermo, Vincenzo Ferrandelli, was defeated by former Mayor Leoluca Orlando of the Italian Values Party which, like Grillo’s insurgent group, opposes the government’s austerity push.

The Democratic Party, which backs Monti in the Rome-based Parliament along with former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party and the Third Way, won the mayoral race in Genoa, the other of Italy’s three largest cities where a runoff was needed two weeks after the first round of voting failed to produce a candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote. Marco Doria, who won almost half of votes in first-round balloting, beat Third Way candidate Enrico Musso, results show.

“Both us and the People of Liberty need to reflect on what happened” in Parma, Enrico Letta, deputy head of the Democratic Party, told RAI television. “It’s something we can’t underestimate.”

Two Other Wins

In the first round of local voting, Grillo’s movement came in second in Parma with 19.5 percent of the vote and third in Genoa with 13.9 percent. The party won the mayoral seat of Sarego, a town of 6,600 people in the northern Veneto region, while its candidate made it to this week’s runoffs in four other northern municipalities besides Parma. The 5 Star Movement won at least two of those races as well, results show.

The group had about 7.3 percent support in a national poll released on April 20, suggesting it would rank as third-biggest political force if general elections were held.

Grillo has called for Italy to exit the euro while staying in the European Union and defaulting on or paying only part of the nation’s 1.9 trillion-euro ($2.4 trillion) debt.

The euro “is an ever-tightening noose, and there’s not even the comfort of making sacrifices to see some kind of recovery -- there’s no sign of economic recovery at all,” Grillo said in a May 9 phone interview from his home in Genoa. “This isn’t just an Italian phenomenon.”

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