Grillo fails to quell M5S dissent after election flop

Anti-establishment movement in turmoil over drop in support

Grillo fails to quell M5S dissent after election flop

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, June 12 - The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement's (M5S) internal turmoil following its flop in an important round of local elections continued on Wednesday despite leader Beppe Grillo's attempt to quell dissent. On Tuesday Senator Adele Gambaro said comedian-turned-politician Grillo, who frequently communicates his political thoughts via an often angry blog where no holds are barred, was the root of the M5S's problems. Grillo, who in 2009 founded the movement that rode a wave of public disenchantment with Italy's established political class to win around a quarter of the vote in February's general election, subsequently asked Gambaro "to leave the M5S as soon as possible". But the hard line has not stamped out criticism within the Internet-based movement, which refuses public funding and selects political novices as its representatives via online polls. ''We are too Grillo-dependent'', M5S Senator Bartolomeo Pepe told Rome daily Il Messaggero, adding that the movement was heading towards ''self-destruction''. ''Even from a physical standpoint, Beppe cannot last another parliamentary term,'' Pepe said of the movement's 64-year-old leader, who toured Italy in a camper van in the so-called 'Tsunami Tour' and swam across the Messina Strait before the general election. ''Can you picture him when he is 70 still getting mad at demonstrations? "We will last a term of parliament, we are destined for self-destruction". The M5S was largely absent from Sunday's and Monday's run-off contests to elect mayors in many Italian cities, including Rome, after suffering a big fall in support in the first round of voting. It did, however, manage to get mayors elected in the towns of Pomezia near the capital and Assemini in Sardinia. Last week two M5S lawmakers defected and another was recently kicked out for breaking the movement's rules about giving interviews to Italian media outlets, which Grillo says collude with the other parties. Some say the outcome of the local votes was in part down to the intransigent line Grillo adopted after February's election ended in a virtual tie between the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party and the M5S. Grillo refused to consider forming a government with the PD, which he considers a tainted part of a discredited system that produced corruption and recession, along with the PdL and the other established parties. But some M5S voters said this meant an opportunity was missed to pass reforms to make Italy's public life more transparent and to consign Berlusconi to the margins of Italy's political arena. Instead Berlusconi's party has big influence on government policy as Grillo's refusal to negotiate forced the PD to form an alliance with the PdL that in April enabled Premier Enrico Letta's government to be sworn in after two months of deadlock. Grillo, who blasted voters following the first round last month, has refused to accept any responsibility for local-election defeats. ''The outcome of the election is dramatic for Italy'', he wrote on Tuesday on his blog, saying Italians were ''beginning to lose hope''. The M5S's outgoing Senate whip, Vito Crimi, said that movement remained behind Grillo and that Gambaro's opinions were not shared by the majority of MPS lawmakers in the Upper House. "If today the only hope of carrying out a cultural, democratic, non-violent revolution is 5-Star Movement, it is thanks to Beppe Grillo," Crimi said. "Those (in parliament) who no longer agree with the path and ideas of the 5-Star Movement are free to make their choices, but they'll have to assume their responsibilities with the people who elected them and voted for an idea, a model, a project".

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