Bloomberg News

Grillo’s Party May Consider Senate Walk-Out on Gridlock

March 04, 2013

Five Star Movement Leader Beppe Grillo

Five Star Movement Leader Beppe Grillo has rejected collaborating with established parties. Photographer: Fabio Muzzi/AFP via Getty Images

Beppe Grillo’s senators-elect, who hold a blocking minority in Italy’s upper house of parliament, may consider staging a confidence-vote walk-out to allow a political rival to form a government and ease gridlock.

Grillo’s Five Star Movement is seeking to influence the program of Italy’s next government and would require policy concessions in exchange for a walk-out, said two senators-elect who declined to be identified because no deal has been made. Five Star won’t vote to support any government, they said.

Italian politicians are wrangling for control after an inconclusive result to the general election last week. Pier Luigi Bersani, the top vote getter, has a majority in the lower house and is seeking help from Five Star to secure the Senate. The negotiations pose a dilemma for Grillo and his adherents, or so-called Grillini, as Five Star ran on a platform of expunging established politicians like Bersani from power.

“My guess is that he, and above all his people, both the people in parliament and those outside parliament, will bring him around to some sort of compromise,” said James Walston, a politics professor at Rome’s American University. “They’re going to have to spin it in such a way that it looks like a compromise because Grillo and the Grillini don’t know what that word means.”

Senate Walk-Out

A Senate walk-out would lower the threshold for achieving a majority, making it easier to secure enough backing for a new government. It would also allow Five Star to let a government to form while sparing its senators from voting “yes” in a confidence ballot. Vito Crimi, Five Star’s head in the Senate, reiterated in a webcast meeting today that his party won’t vote to support any government headed by politicians.

“Whoever doesn’t want to understand it hasn’t yet, and never will,” Crimi said. “We have already said many times that we won’t give a confidence vote to a partisan government.”

Italy’s 10-year bond yield rose 9 basis points to 4.88 percent at 5:59 p.m. in Rome, approaching the highest level in more than three months.

Bersani, head of Italy’s Democratic Party, is seeking help from Five Star as he resists renewing an alliance with three- time former Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Bersani and Berlusconi, whose parties partnered in November 2011 to bring Prime Minister Mario Monti to power, resumed their traditional rivalry during the two-month election campaign.

New Election

Italy may be heading for a new election if Grillo blocks a Democratic Party-led government, Bersani said late yesterday in an interview on state-owned RAI3 television.

“He needs to decide what he will do or we will all be sent packing, including Grillo,” Bersani said.

The Five Star representatives, comprised of 54 senators- elect and 109 future members of the Chamber of Deputies, are meeting in Rome for the first time since the Feb. 24-25 vote to discuss strategy. The party held a webcast that Grillo opened with brief remarks before each of the representatives introduced themselves. Grillo reiterated his push for a citizenship stipend and said the party members were resolved to keep campaign promises.

“We talked about this phenomenon that is gathering a European and world following,” Grillo said on the webcast. “We created something that wasn’t there before, and now the world is watching us.”

Protest Against Corruption

Grillo, 64, started his party from scratch as a protest against corruption in politics. An ex-comic and former yogurt pitchman, Grillo shunned television appearances and built a following through his blog and a series of rallies throughout Italy. The party blamed established politicians during the campaign for Italy’s recession and ran on a platform of reversing Monti’s fiscal austerity.

The Five Star representatives, ranging from scientists and lawyers to the formerly unemployed, said they would focus on issues including rooting out corruption, protecting the environment and providing stimulus for small businesses.

Bersani’s coalition won a majority of Italy’s lower house of parliament and finished with 123 lawmakers in the 315-seat Senate to 117 for Berlusconi and his allies.

In the event of a Five Star walk-out, Berlusconi could complicate a Bersani confidence vote by withdrawing his own forces from the upper house and denying the body a quorum. If that happens, Five Star would have to send some of its senators back into the hall to secure the quorum. Bersani’s Democratic Party, or PD, would probably also need the voting support of Monti and the 19 seats his party won in the election.

“This would square the circle of the maths giving birth to an extremely weak minority government between PD and Monti with some sort of ‘external support’ from Five Star,” according to the Italian elections bulletin by Mediobanca Securities, published last week in a daily note to clients by a team headed by Antonio Guglielmi.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lorenzo Totaro in Rome at ltotaro@bloomberg.net; Andrew Frye in Rome at afrye@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net; James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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