Italian opposition snubs comic would-be leader



ROME - Italy's centre-left opposition turned down a membership request Monday from one of the country's best-loved comics who has declared his intention to lead and reform the struggling party.
Beppe Grillo, whose brand of cutting political satire has transformed him into one of Italy's favourite comics, had vowed to run in primary elections in October to become head of the Democratic Party (PD).



Italian opposition snubs comic would-be leader
But senior party official Piero Fassino dismissed his candidacy as a "provocative joke". Later he said Grillo had been turned down for membership as he had filed his application in a region where he did not actually live.
Announcing his intention to stand in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, the 61-year-old Grillo hit out at a "vacuum of ideas, of proposals, of courage" on the left.
"There has been a vacuum on the left since the death of Enrico Berlinguer (secretary general of the Communist Party until his death in 1984)," added Grillo, who commentators have compared to US satirist Michael Moore.
The democrats are beset by infighting and unable to present a real threat to the ruling right in Italy, despite a slew of scandals engulfing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The latest setback to the PD came in June with a poor performance in European elections, where they received just 26 percent of the vote.
This came after defeat in Italian legislative elections in April 2008.
A vote will be held in October to pick the party's next secretary general, a replacement for Walter Veltroni who resigned in February after defeat in a regional poll.
Three party members have already put their names forward, including interim leader Dario Franceschini, and former economic development minister Pier Luigi Bersani.
Grillo told La Stampa he could receive up to 10,000 signatures in support of his bid to lead the PD. The party requires 1,500 signatures to run.
He said his political programme would include policies against nuclear energy, which Berlusconi backs.
Television broadcasting rights would also be withdrawn from politicians, Grillo said, taking a swipe at the domination of the Italian media by Berlusconi.
Grillo started his career as a slapstick television comedian, before shifting to political satire and starting a popular blog.
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Monday, July 13th 2009
AFP
           


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