I have to say something about it because it’s not just mildly annoying but, rather, very annoying.
A comedian was NOT elected to the Italian Parliament. A comedian did NOT win more votes than any other party. A comedian CANNOT, in any way, be compared to the other person they consider a clown – namely Mr B.
That’s just like saying that Ronald Reagan was an actor when he became President of the USA or Arnold Schwarzenegger was an actor when he was the Governor of California.
There should be a “used to be” somewhere in these headlines and media reports.
For a number of years now, Beppe Grillo has been campaigning against corruption and waste in Italian politics and Parliament. That’s not really a funny thing and nor was he doing it to boost his status as a comedian. Nor, in fact, given his party’s “rules”, can he ever take a seat in the Parliament given that one of the major “rules” is that no MP should have a criminal conviction – of any kind. And as he has a criminal conviction, he won’t be an MP.
From outside Italy, there’s so much misunderstanding about Italy and the way that it works (for good and bad).
For a start, there isn’t a system here like the UK/USA. There aren’t two or three parties. Beppe Grillo’s M5S (5 Star Movement) had the biggest share of the vote in the whole of Italy – 25% – and 75% of people voted (they have a very high turnout in Italy compared to, say, the UK) – this means that, as the biggest party, only 19 people out of every 100 voted for M5S.
It’s hardly a mandate.
And, that’s part of the problem. If his was the biggest party (from the votes) and, yet, less than 20% voted for him, what about the other parties? Well, the other parties are smaller. And there are lots and lots of them. What happens is that the bigger parties form groups with other, smaller parties and hope that they can get through a whole parliament without having to go back to the polls. And this is one of the reasons there have been so many governments since the war. They don’t last very long (in general) because the ties that bind the bigger parties to the smaller parties depend on the smaller parties getting what they want.
So, in reality, at no time has Berlusconi ever been truly elected to Parliament. But, on a number of occasions, he HAS been able to form a government by getting into bed with some smaller parties who, in a broad sense, share his and his party’s views.
The other thing to remember is that this is not really a united country. This is, in fact, a country of regions. And the regions each have their own parties. Take the Lega Nord, for example. They are a Northern Italy party. In fact, one of the things that they really want is to separate North and South Italy. The North is the “powerhouse” of Italy and the South the very much poorer cousins. So, if they want to separate and let North Italy be it’s own country, it will be unsurprising to you that they don’t have anything to do with the South and, therefore, there are no Lega Nord representatives from south of, say, Florence (I don’t actually know how far south they go).
We don’t have the equivalent in the UK but it would be like having the South East Party – who only operate in the South East of England and want London to break away from the rest of the UK. It’s difficult to imagine because they just wouldn’t get enough votes for any of them to become an MP and, if they did manage, they would only get one or 2 MPs at the very most. It is not the same here.
And, because of the way that Italy is, people vote, not for the main person but, rather the local person. Politics is localised. Sure, they know that, by voting for a local person you will end up with one of the bigger politicians but, still, it’s about who you know locally that’s the reason that you vote. And, by being local, I mean almost a neighbour. Or the friend of a friend. Or the friend of a relative. And it’s by word of mouth. M5S changed this generating its support via the Internet. Via websites and Facebook and Twitter – something the bigger parties are only just getting used to (and in to). Beppe Grillo, having been banned from TV by saying some things that the ruling elite didn’t like, had been using the Internet and his website to campaign for years. They just got a bit more serious this time. And it shows.
But let’s look at why 20% of the population voted for the M5S. It wasn’t really against Mr B. It was a vote against the ruling elite (which includes Mr B – as well as ALL the other parties); it was a vote against the corruption, against the excessive number of MPs, their excessive salaries and their enormous pensions (for which they become eligible almost as soon as they step through the Parliament doors), against their expenses (they have hundreds of cars available to them) and against their over-riding desire to make sure that they are OK, even at the cost to the taxpayer.
Of course, it’s not over yet. There’s no overall winner. There’s little likelihood that there will be a government that lasts even a year (even lasting until Summer seems a bit far-fetched) and so, as normal, it will be back to the polls.
I’m not saying, for a moment, that BG and his party are the “saviour” of Italy. Remember Obama? He was going to be the saviour of the USA. Remember Clegg? He was going to control the excesses of the Conservatives. It just doesn’t work like that. Once these people get into power, they find that it’s not so easy to wipe the slate clean and start again. And so, it will probably be for BG and his MPs.
We shall see.
However, what this is NOT is those insane Italians voting for a comedian (as opposed to a buffoon) to lead them. It’s not a joke nor even slightly funny and, if they do manage to get some sort of real power AND they do all that they say they will do (and are seen to be doing in Sicily – i.e. giving back a large part of their salary to lend to small businesses, for example), then there is real hope for Italy to lead the world away from this undemocratic and, frankly, quite disgusting ruling of the plebs by the elite. It’s time that the rest of the world caught up with the Italians.
And, of course, THAT’s exactly what worries the “markets” (aka the banking elites). Now they have control. Give people real freedom and you get something like just happened in Switzerland. Or worse – they get thrown out all together.