Rebel comic aims to exorcise Italian politics' walking dead

Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:48am EST
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By Steve Scherer

POMEZIA, Italy (Reuters) - Comic Beppe Grillo calls four-time Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi a "dwarf zombie", outgoing premier Mario Monti "rigor Montis" and Italy's political class "the walking dead".

Grillo, founder of a movement that will rival even the biggest parties at elections next month, hopes to wipe out the old guard: "We will bring some exorcists to parliament," he said in an interview after a rain-drenched rally south of Rome.

The 64-year-old Grillo is quick with wisecracks but the his 5-Star Movement is no joke. It is currently Italy's second- or third-biggest party, depending on the poll, riding a wave of discontent at conventional politics and economic austerity.

Crossing Italy on his "Tsunami tour", Grillo hopes to overturn Italian politics in a way that has not happened since the "Clean Hands" corruption scandals buried a political generation in the early 1990s, making way for Berlusconi's political rise.

"Grillo is attracting people who are disgusted with politics," said Maurizio Pessato, of pollsters SWG.

Rivals decry the movement as a populist vehicle with vague policy aims and it lost some momentum towards the end of last year as criticism grew that Grillo's authoritarian style was stifling independent voices.

But the 5-Star Movement is still second only to Pier Luigi Bersani's Democratic Party (PD) at 17.2 percent, up almost 2 percentage points in two weeks, an SWG poll published on Friday said, tying Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL), which lost half a percentage point from a week earlier.

That means that more than 50 - Grillo says 100 - of the movement's candidates will fill parliament's 945 seats. None of the 5-Star candidates has ever been there, and most are complete newcomers to politics at any level.   Continued...

Five-Star Movement activist and comedian Beppe Grillo talks to the media before the shareholders meeting at Banca Monte dei Paschi in Siena, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini