Grillo Says His Party ‘French Revolution Without Guillotine’Andrew Frye
Beppe Grillo, the ex-comedian supported by a quarter of Italian voters, praised his lawmakers for rejecting compromise with adversaries as the country’s divided parliament struggles to form a government.
“We’re going to win with our ideas and our strength because we’re a miracle,” Grillo said in an interview broadcast today on his website. “We are the French Revolution without the guillotine.”
Grillo spoke after leaders of his Five Star Movement met with President Giorgio Napolitano and reiterated their refusal to back any government led by rival parties. Grillo’s goal remains to sweep veteran politicians from parliament and implement a program of economic stimulus to pull Italy from its cycle of chronic recessions, he said.
The French Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy of Louis XVI in the 18th century, failed in its goal of implementing a stable democracy and collapsed into the Reign of Terror, with about 20,000 people beheaded by the guillotine. It gave way to dictatorship under Napoleon.
The upheaval led by Grillo may expand beyond Italy to its partners in the 17-country euro area as economic stagnation and the Cyprus crisis weaken popular support for budget rigor enforced by Germany and other northern European countries. Goldman Sachs Asset Management Chairman Jim O’Neill said Five Star’s ability to win votes in Italy by questioning euro membership may affect the fight to keep the single currency intact.
“The most interesting story going on in the whole thing at the moment in my opinion is the whole Grillo factor,” O’Neill said yesterday in an interview on Bloomberg Television. “I don’t understand why the tough guys in the north aren’t spending a bit more time thinking about that issue.”
Grillo’s party has more than 150 members in parliament, the third-biggest force behind the coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the Democratic Party, and the group headed by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Five Star has called for lower taxes on businesses, cuts to the cost of politics and a referendum on Italy’s membership in the euro.
Grillo, 64, founded Five Star and built a following by staging rallies across Italy, including a 73-stop tour in the six-week campaign for the Feb. 24-25 general election. He himself wasn’t a candidate and isn’t in parliament because he says he isn’t fit to serve due to a manslaughter conviction in the 1980s. He was behind the wheel in a one-car accident that killed two friends and their son.