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Italy Can’t Afford to Remain in Euro, Party Head Grillo Says

Italian Comedian-Turned-Politician Beppe Grillo
Beppe Grillo, Italian comedian-turned-politician, used anger over austerity and higher retirement ages to boost a political party that polls show could get as much as 18 percent of the vote nationwide in elections due by May. Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images

Italy can’t bear the cost of staying in the euro and the country should hold a referendum on whether to remain in Europe’s monetary union, the leader of the insurgent 5 Star Movement said.

“The decision on whether to remain in the euro is up to the Italian citizens through a referendum -- this is my position,” comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo said in a post on his Internet blog. “I think Italy cannot afford to remain in the euro, but that is up to the Italians to decide, not up to a group of oligarchs or Beppe Grillo.”

The 5 Star Movement, which opinion polls indicate is currently Italy’s second-biggest political force nationwide, is the latest party to profit from anger in Europe over tax increases and budget cuts aimed at stemming the sovereign debt crisis. The surge in support for Grillo’s movement, which outpolled establishment parties in a regional vote in Sicily last month, could erode support for the main parties in national elections due by May, increasing the chances of a hung parliament.

Sicily Vote

The election in Sicily, where Grillo’s movement came in first with almost 15 percent of the vote, was viewed as a barometer of support in next year’s national ballot.

Italy’s euro membership “can’t be a taboo,” Grillo, 64, said in a May 9 interview.

Growth in Italy’s economy, the euro-region’s third biggest, has trailed the European average for more than a decade. In the final quarter of last year the country entered its fourth recession since the single currency was introduced.

While reducing Italy’s debt-financing costs, Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity drive fuelled the public anger that led the 5 Star surge in opinion polls and in local elections. In May it won four mayoral seats in northern Italy, including the city of Parma.

The grouping won’t seek an alliance at general elections next year or in Parliament, Grillo said today in his ‘’Grillo for Dummies” post on the Internet.

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