Democratic vitality in Italy


Direct Democracy on the Internet got a breakthrough in the Italian election on 25.02.13 by Movimento 5 Stelle, M5S. The comedian Beppe Grillo and the financier Gianroberto Casaleggio describe M5S as a new form of politics that uses the Internet to consult voters directly. That the breakthrough occurred in Italy was no coincidence. The Italian mix of modernity and corruption – the tradition, frustration, and desire for change – was needed.

That M5S got 25 % of the votes means that the political system in Italy is changed. If the movement sticks to its direct democratic principles, the political sardine tin can be opened and the contents will be analyzed online. This openness prevents political corruption and means a great victory for democracy, provided that the other parties will cooperate with M5S. But Silvio Berlusconi and Pier Luigi Bersani have surely other plans. They have already begun to push Beppe Grillo to exercise power over M5S. “He needs to decide what to do, or we must all begin to pack up, including Grillo,” Pier Luigi Bersani has said. In order to maintain control, Mr Bersani will be presenting a political discourse that he wants M5S to approve.

The international media reactions are interesting. Beppe Grillo is portrayed as another Berlusconi populist. Media that normally celebrates democracy now heckles Italy for voting for another clown. But M5S is a democratic movement that should not be controlled by one person. Democratic decisions cannot be predicted if you don’t have total control, and then the decisions are no longer democratic! The free market is also impossible to predict but we still praise it for the ability to create growth. Market economy and politics influence each other; usually, the more stable party must adapt to the other. With less predictable politics the market might be forced to calm down and take a long-term responsibility.

3 Responses to “Democratic vitality in Italy”

  1. fabrizio fitzgerald Says:

    Cool post! Just wrote one on the same topic! I think M5S ha a revolutionary potential that can be unleashed only when the movement won’t be tied up to Grillo and Casaleggio anymore.

  2. Arjen Nijeboer Says:

    Per, I think you are very optimistic about Beppe Grillo. He’s been politically active since 2005, promised to introduce direct democracy af the launch of the 5 Star Movement in 2010, and so far we are in mid 2013, the guy has been elected with 163 young people who hadn’t even met Beppe Grillo until AFTER the election (25.2.2013), and he hasn’t done anything to introduce internal party direct democracy. So far we have only seen a highly personalized show. We shall see what he does now that power plays a role.

    • pernor Says:

      Well – I take for granted that Beppe Grillo actually strives to reduce his own influence, but I bet he is under pressure. No doubt he has enemies who would love to see the 5 Star Movement fail. “If you want to test a man’s character, give him power”, said Abraham Lincoln. There is a risk is that Grillo starts to fear that direct democracy will make M5S incompetent as decision makers, a permanent “lame duck.”

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