In the early summer we mentioned Italian comic turned online political activist Beppe Grillo and his efforts to gather the signatures needed to introduce a popular law in Italy. From all the attention he has been getting in recent days in the Italian media, it seems Beppe is causing a few sleepless nights for the elected politicians as he continues his campaign to rock the political establishment of the country. Especially as it has been reported that his V-day campaign netted around 300,000 signatories.
Last night’s Rai Uno (Italian public broadcaster) evening news, which some of us are compelled to watch, dedicated a substantial part of their broadcast to his activities. The same channel’s pseudo political chat show, Porta Porta, also debated the campaign, with the likes of Prof. Prodi commenting on Vaffa-Day. Whether you are a showgirl (velina), tv presenter or politician, you know when you’ve made it in Italy when Porta Porta presenter Bruno Vespa gives you a call. It seems therefore that online grassroots campaigning has truly arrived in Italy.
Beppe’s anti-establishment campaign, which focuses on ensuring that politicians with criminal convictions do not end up in Parliament, has certainly found a well of support amongst those fed up with the current political groupings. According to the networking site MeetUp, Beppe’s blog-led campaign has the support of over 50,000 members in 229 cities across 22 countries. This online support has also led to over 4,000 offline events – such as those seen in the V-day video from London. Beppe has used embedded maps in his blog so you can see where they have taken place (a neat little trick for taking online campaigns offline that was recently made available from Google).
Beppe is now encouraging this support to form lists for the next Italian local elections. The conditions for your candidature: (1) you cannot have been convicted of a criminal offence (2) you can not be a member of an existing party.
The key question is how long Beppe can run his “basta” (enough) campaign before he has to let people know what the movement stands for and what these candidates would do should they get elected. However, given the state of Italy and the young’s disenchantment with the way the country is run, a negative campaign may be enough for some time to come.
Beppe could follow French Presidential candidate Segolene Royal’s approach and turn to the same internet based group for their ideas for the Beppe Civic List’s policy manifesto. However, that well trodden path does have its own risks. Many believe that part of Sego’s downfall was her inability to bring focus to her campaign. As one of my US colleagues put it, her 100 point plan had 99 points too many. Perhaps best to follow some of our British political parties, who appear to like dialogue, listening and conversations and then simply pick and choose from such debates the policies that they would have come up with anyway.
Of course, Beppe’s objective may be the much narrower one of giving existing political parties a shot up the arm. In which case, he is probably already close to achieving his objective.