“He’s the best campaigner,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, professor of political science at the Luiss university, who added that the “winner” of the elections, however, was Grillo’s raging Five Star Movement, which garnered about a quarter of the vote. “We have never seen anything like it in Europe,” he said of Grillo’s campaign.
The 64-year-old Grillo, who has sapped the votes of the Italian left, transformed himself from theoretical funnyman to public scourge
of Italy’s corrupt political class
in 2007, when he began holding V-Day protests (short for an Italian expletive). Hundreds of thousands of supporters have turned out in recent weeks to hear Grillo, who has put a mask of notorious plotter Guy Fawkes on his Tsunami Tour’s campaign camper, has the most-read blog in Italy and exhausts himself screaming “Thieves!” and bemoaning the country’s myriad woes.
What worries many of Italy’s more sober politicians and analysts is that the protest leader does not seem to be in favor of much. A conviction for vehicular manslaughter in an accident that killed three people means that Grillo himself cannot serve in Parliament, and his candidates have no governing experience, having won by railing against tax collectors, vaccines, citizenship for children born to Italy’s legal immigrants and the euro.
Outside a voting station on Via Tevere, Enrico Beccarini, 61, said he was disappointed by a Monti campaign that amounted to “putting up posters” and the chilly economist trying to warm his image by adopting a dog named Empathy. He voted for Grillo’s party because “it’s a strong protest vote,” he said.
Giancarlo Pagotto, a retired banker, walked out minutes later and said he had cast his ballot for Berlusconi. “At this moment, he seems to me the only acceptable choice,” he said with a shrug. “I’m anti-communist so I can’t vote Bersani; Grillo is leading a good rebellion, but we have no idea what he’s for, and Monti disappointed me.”
As for Berlusconi’s pledge to personally pay for the country’s real estate tax, Pagotto said, “you say a lot of things in an electoral campaign. My hope is that he wins and then steps aside for someone else in his party and becomes economy minister. He’s a great entrepreneur.”