How a Comedian's Party Stormed Italy's Election

Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement shakes up the political scene

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 26, 2013 11:46 AM CST

(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.

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.
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)
Boxes are emptied for ballots to be counted at a polling station in Rome, Feb. 25, 2013.
Boxes are emptied for ballots to be counted at a polling station in Rome, Feb. 25, 2013.   (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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.
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)
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