Italy’s 5-Star movement faces 5-Star mutiny

Beppe Grillo, the fiery comic whose populist 5-Star Movement stunned Italy by winning a quarter of the votes in February’s election, is facing his biggest test since the vote with rebellion brewing among his novice lawmakers.

Publicly blamed by one of his own senators for the party’s poor showing in local elections earlier this week, in which it won only two towns out of more than 500, Grillo faces the threat of a mutiny that could blow the party apart.

As many as 30 parliamentarians are said to be ready to quit the party for various reasons…Some have balked at being asked to hand back daily parliamentary allowances as part of the movement’s rejection of political privilege.

Others chafe at Grillo’s deep intolerance of dissent in a grassroots movement where everyone is supposed to have a say…

What has emerged is his limits as a leader. Any politician knows that managing things in such an absolutist, authoritarian manner is impossible,” said Leonardo Morlino, a professor of political science at LUISS university in Rome.

Grillo’s success was built in equal measure on his own charisma and skill in articulating boiling frustration at a discredited elite, and on widespread public hopes for a new way of doing politics built on youthful energy and the power of the Internet…

His popular blog attracts thousands of comments from young people sick of being shut out of decisions and turned off by a television system divided between Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset empire and state broadcasting carved up between the main political parties.

Play-school imitations of dissent always appeal to the disaffected. And achieve little if anything. Now that his tantrums have taken the “movement” past a couple of expressions of independence – his anarchistic bullying is becoming best known as Sound and Fury, signifying nothing. If there’s nothing to be achieved – there’s no reason to follow.