Insight: Grillo's rookies ready to take Italian parliament by storm

Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:42am EST
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By Francesca Piscioneri and Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) - Meet the Grillini. They are the 162 very ordinary people who are now regarded with trepidation by financial markets and world leaders after this week's Italian election failed to produce a government.

The Grillini - literally "little Grillos" - are the lawmakers elected for the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of comic Beppe Grillo, which upset all forecasts by emerging as the largest party in Italy.

They now hold the key to the future of the euro zone's third largest economy and possibly of the single currency as a whole, amid fears that Italy's political instability could re-ignite the region's currently dormant debt crisis.

It will be very hard for Rome's hung parliament to form any government without their consent, but they appear to be neither rabble-rousers, demagogues nor even populists, three accusations often leveled at their leader.

Like the movement's mayors and councilors who already run city and regional governments, they seem far more pragmatic than Grillo, whose proposals can become more and more extreme as he whips himself into a hoarse-voiced frenzy at his rallies.

"The ideologies are finished, ideas aren't right-wing or left-wing, they are good or bad," said Sebastiano Barbanti, a 36-year-old marketing strategist elected in the poor southern region of Calabria.

Barbanti told Reuters that 5-Star's "model" should be the kind of policies pursued by its regional councilors in Sicily, who gave up 75 percent of their salaries and pooled the money saved to provide cheap credit to small businesses.

It remains to be seen whether Grillo's lawmakers are dangerous, but the 108 lower house deputies and 54 senators certainly seem like aliens in the stuffy, gerontocratic world of Italian politics.   Continued...

Five Star Movement leader and comedian Beppe Grillo (R) speaks during a rally in Rome February 22, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi (ITALY - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR3E55F