Italy’s election results have produced a political gridlock that scares Europe and global investors.
But also a winner: The anti-establishment “Five Star Movement” led by former comedian, Beppe Grillo.
The movement now holds about 25 percent of the seats in Italy’s new parliament, more than any other single party.
One of the group’s citizen activists, Stefano Ambrosi, speaking from Rome Tuesday, said the movement would not collaborate with any of the old political parties.
“They’re dead and they don’t even know it,” he adds.
The Five-Star movement also rejects the program of budget cuts and tax hikes that’s kept Italy economically afloat for the past year and a half.
“Basically,” says Ambrosi, “we’re just going to be in opposition to everything.”
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. Anti-establishment, anti-politics as usual, anti-taxes. No, not the Tea Party here in the U.S. We’re talking about the big winner in the Italian elections, the Five Star Movement led by former comedian Beppe Grillo. The movement now holds about twenty-five percent of the seats in Italy’s new parliament, more than any other single party, which could give Grillo and his followers some real weight in deciding who should govern Italy and how. The problem is, the movement rejects grand coalitions, and it rejects the program of budget cuts and tax hikes that’s kept Italy economically afloat for the last year and a half. That’s rattled the markets, and it’s a big worry in Europe and beyond. So, what is the Five Star Movement all about? Stefano Ambrosi is an activist with the Five Star Movement in Rome.
Stefano Ambrosi: We consider ourselves as a movement being above right wing, left wing, whatever you want to call them â€“ they are a thing of the past. We would like, this is our aim, is to establish a new way of dealing with things. You can say that this is the beginning of a new way of doing politics.
Werman: You say that’s the beginning of a new way of doing politics, but seventy-five percent of Italy’s parliament is still doing politics the old way.
Ambrosi: That’s right. That’s why we are not going to align ourselves with any of the previous parties, let’s say, the official parties because, very simply, we speak different languages. We are the society. We are the people. This is the people’s movement. This other seventy-five percent that you spoke about is basically representing just themselves nowadays. I’m sure that our candidates, once they have been in the parliament, they will be very willing to speak about certain issues which are important to the nation as long as they find them suitable with our ideas.
Werman: So, let me ask you the same question again, Mr. Ambrosi. You’ve got this power now. What are you going to do with it?
Ambrosi: Basically, just to sum it all up, we’re going to be an opposition in our parliament, which has never been there for the last thirty odd years.
Werman: An opposition to what? What are you opposed to?
Ambrosi: An opposition to the government.
Werman: Right, so now your movement, the Five Star Movement, is in a position to do something. So, give us an example of what you might do with the issue of austerity. How would you get in line with the Eurozone?
Ambrosi: We do not believe that austerity is actually a good way of dealing with the economic crisis. Look at Greece. I mean, that is certainly not a way to go. You have to help people. You have to have people having the money to make investments. You have to have people to, even as I said, look at Greece, to buy groceries for God’s sake. I mean, we are living in a situation where austerity is something of the past.
Werman: These are ambitious plans and ideas, and yet your movement can’t govern with twenty-five percent. So, are you willing to collaborate with any party of politician?
Ambrosi: No, as in an alliance, no way. We’re not going to ally with any other political movement. No way. Absolutely not.
Werman: Why five stars, by the way?
Ambrosi: Five stars because they are the main five points which are above any politics. These are the basics. One is free internet connection. Another is free public water, green energy, the five main points.
Werman: So, by not being willing to collaborate with any party or politician, is the Five Star Movement essentially saying, it’s our way or the highway?
Ambrosi: No. As I said, we are open to talk and see if we can find a way, you know, even a change for the future. The past is closed. It’s finished. It’s a done deal. It’s history. And especially in a country like Italy where basically in politics we’ve had the same faces for thirty odd years. When I started voting – I’m forty-seven years old – you could choose almost the same people, the same parties. I mean, these people are old, decrepit. They have no idea how much a pint of milk costs. So, do you think that these people really can represent me? I don’t think so. They cannot represent you, my friend. I mean, they have no idea what it costs to send a child to school. They live in a cocoon. They are a cast, as we like to say. They are dead and haven’t realized it yet.
Werman: Stefano Ambrosi, an activist with the Five Star Movement speaking with us from Rome. Thank you very much for your time.
Ambrosi: Thanks very much.
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