Populist comic & blogger Beppe Grillo stuns Italy with an astonishing showing at the polls during national elections. Who's laughing now?
"The outcome of Italy's national election is still uncertain. But what is already clear is that the massive winner is Beppe Grillo, a shaggy haired comedian whose anti-establishment 5-Star movement could well become the country's largest party.
It had been clear from weeks that Grillo, with his fiery invective against the traditional parties, was making impressive progress in the polls, but no pundits had imagined he could win roughly one-fourth of the votes cast.
"It's marvelous, in three years we have become the biggest party in Italy," Grillo said in uncharacteristically calm tones in his first comments after the vote in a live video feed.
"It's been a wonderful adventure and we will do everything we promised in the election campaign," he said.
Touring the country in a camper van and attracting tens of thousands to his rallies, 64 year-old Grillo channeled the rage and frustration of Italians at the rampant waste and corruption of their political leaders.
Grillo wants Italy to hold a referendum on remaining in the euro. His policy platform, which sapped votes from the left and right alike, includes cuts in politicians' privileges, a minimum income for the unemployed, clean energy and free internet.
"The implications of Grillo's success extend far beyond Italy," said London-based political think-tank Demos. "His success demonstrates an appetite for change, and mainstream parties would do well to take the movement seriously."
Grillo now holds the key to any chance of a government being formed in the eurozone's third largest economy". More