How a Comedian's Party Stormed Italy's Election
Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement shakes up the political scene
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Feb 26, 2013 11:46 AM CST
Italian comic-turned-political agitator Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment 5 Star Movement, delivers his speech during a final rally before the general elections, in Rome, Feb. 22, 2013.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

(Newser) – How topsy turvy was last night's deadlocked Italian election? So topsy-turvy that an upstart party headed by a comedian got the most votes. Beppo Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement got 25% of the vote, more than any other single party, and only slightly less than either of the country's major coalitions, which each managed around 29%, Reuters reports. That's much better than expected—polls out mere days ago had the party at 13% to 26%, the Financial Times reports.

Grillo has been called everything from "Italy's funniest man" to a "very dangerous" populist extremist. His comedy pulls no punches—he refers to Silvio Berlusconi as "the psycho-dwarf" and Mario Monti as "rigor Montis"—which has gotten him all but banned from TV, the Guardian explains. With no other outlet, Grillo has fostered an Internet cult of personality, and been wildly successful at it; M5S grew out of his online fan clubs. Started in 2009, the party has grown swiftly, its populist message apparently striking a chord. But Grillo himself cannot stand for office, a BBC profile points out, because he was convicted of manslaughter in a 1980 auto accident.

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Feb 26, 2013 5:09 PM CST
His nickname is Beppe, yes? Not Beppo?
Feb 26, 2013 1:02 PM CST
Hmmm...the Italian Tea Party.
Feb 26, 2013 12:34 PM CST
Thia wouldn't be the first time in political/human history an unqualified leader has led a political revolution of sorts. It also wouldn't be the first time a convicted felon injected himself into politics. This particular Italian is just more blatant about it than we are in the U.S. And his populist rehtoric isn't all that far off from the Tea Party and other fringe elements.