Italy’s Grillo Says He Quits If Members Back PD Government

Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned politician whose Five-Star Movement won 25 percent of the vote in last month’s Italian elections, said he would quit politics if his party members support a government led by Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party.

“If there were a confidence vote by the parliamentary group of the Five-Star Movement in favor of the ones that have destroyed Italy, I would retire from politics,” Grillo said late yesterday in a post on Twitter.

The Democratic Party won a majority in the parliament’s Chamber of Deputies, while Grillo and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi each won blocking minorities in the Senate. Bersani would need to win a confidence vote in the Senate to govern, so gaining support of Grillo’s forces would be critical.

Bersani last week presented an eight-point program for a possible administration, focusing on fighting corruption and shrinking the size and cost of government, issues that have been central to Grillo’s platform and electoral success. While some Five-Star members have signaled they’d be open to tacitly supporting Bersani taking power, Grillo’s Twitter post seems to shut the door on any type of alliance.

The PD is “not in a position on its own to ensure a government for this country,” Bersani said today at a Rome meeting of his party’s lawmakers.

Internal Referendum

Grillo said he won’t consult his party members on whether to support the PD’s efforts to support a government.

“There won’t be any internal referendum to ask for support for a government of the PD minus the ‘L’ or any kind of pseudo-technical government,” he wrote on Twitter, signaling that he sees little difference between the Democratic Party, or PD, and Berlusconi’s People of Liberty Party, the PDL.

The new parliament will meet for the first time on March 15 and will begin choosing leaders before President Giorgio Napolitano starts consultations with parties to see if anyone can muster the support to put together a government. As Bersani won a majority in the lower house, he will probably get the first chance to test support.

Grillo has said the only option his party would support would be for Napolitano to ask Five Star to form a government.

Roberta Lombardi, the newly elected head of the Five Star in the Lower Chamber said today that any Five Movement lawmaker who backs the PD in a confidence vote will be expelled from the party, Ansa newswire reported.

Funding Challenge

One of the eight points Bersani included last week in his program for a government was to review the system of public party funding. Grillo challenged the PD today to put that commitment in practice by refusing to accept “more than 45 million euros” ($58.6 million) of election reimbursements Bersani’s party is entitled from the Rome-based Parliament.

In a post on his website entitled ’Bersani: sign here’ the Five Star leader said that his party will return about 42.8 million euros of reimbursements “that belong to citizens,” citing a 1993 referendum that saw more than 90 percent of Italians voting in favor of the abolition of public financing.

Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, who challenged Bersani for the party leadership, said on March 9 that he would also abolish the election reimbursements.

“If Bersani added to his eight points the abolition of the public funding to parties, that would be a serious act, not a demagogic one,” Renzi, who lost the a primary to Bersani in December, told state-owned RAI television on March 9.

“I hope the PD will listen to what Renzi said,” PD lawmaker-elect Silvia Fregolent said in an interview in Rome today. “Then it will be up to Bersani to respond” to Grillo’s proposals, she added.

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