Italians go to the polls today, and Beppe Grillo still seems to be the name on everybody’s lips. Grillo is expected to get up to 22 per cent of the vote — staggering for a comedian-turned-politician with no discernable policies whose campaign slogan is ‘vaffanculo’ (‘F— off!’). Il Fenomeno Grillo is anti-politics on amphetamines. Is Italian democracy self-immolating? Maybe. Faced with nothing but corruption, recession, imposed EU austerity, and the same old politicians, the downtrodden public are fed up and turning on the system. You can’t really blame them. Some of the Italians I spoken to here today think it is scandalous that Grillo has so much support — ‘What does he stand for?’ said one, ‘naaathing’ — and the mainstream parties hope that Grillo will slip in the last stretch.
But others point out that the young, poor, and squeezed middle classes have nobody better to support. The alternatives — Bersani, Monti and, of course, Berlusconi — are proven failures. Young people, apparently, think the system is ‘the real joke’. Or, as one 30-year-old Roman put it to me earlier, ‘I vote Grillo — of course. What else do you want me to do?”