ROME (Reuters) - An Italian comedian’s campaign using a rude word to tell off politicians has won the support of more than 300,000 Italians who signed petitions to sweep away a generation of lawmakers they say are corrupt and ineffective.
Popular comic Beppe Grillo has sent shock waves through the political system with the level of support for his campaign which, if successful, would bar convicted felons from parliament and would limit politicians’ careers to two terms in office.
An estimated 40,000 people attended Grillo’s rally in Bologna on Saturday and many more went to hundreds of similar “Vaffanculo-day” protests around the country. The word is the Italian equivalent of the “f”-word in English.
Gaining grassroots support via his website, one of Italy’s most popular blogs, the 57-year-old comic said Italy needed a radical break from what he said was the political mismanagement of Italy since the end of fascism and World War Two.
“Nothing has changed since 1943. Then the king fled a nation in disarray, today politicians barricade themselves in palaces immersed in ‘cultural’ issues,” said Grillo who, by the end of the protest in the early hours of Sunday claimed at least 300,000 signatures to his petition.
The manifesto contains three points: no one with criminal records should be allowed in parliament; a maximum of two terms for any parliamentarian; and lawmakers should be elected directly, not by the current party list system.
The campaign is another embarrassment for Italy’s political class which for years has been characterised by back-biting, cronyism and sleaze.
A book on politicians’ excessive perks and lavish expenses has become this year’s surprise best-seller and fuelled a growing disaffection among Italians that the media have dubbed “anti-politics”.
The impact of the V-day campaign is likely to be felt most strongly by Prime Minister Romano Prodi who is struggling to hold together a divided centre-left coalition and needs to re-write a universally criticised electoral system.
At the rally in Bologna — Prodi’s hometown, with a staunchly left-wing electorate — Grillo mocked Prodi’s docile manner, calling him “Valium”.