Italy's 5-Star Movement Clips Grillo's Wings
There are political tremors rumbling as a fierce debate rages among activists of Italy's 5-Star movement, founded by Beppe Grillo.
On Saturday, several 5-Star Movement(M5S) senators voted in a parliamentary secret ballot to elect former anti-mafia judge Pietro Grasso as speaker of the Senate - thus defying instructions devised by Grillo and earlier endorsed by a majority, to cast an empty ballot.
The M5S rebels were voting tactically and pragmatically to block the candidate put forward by Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom People party. But that evening, in a posting on his blog, Grillo condemned their action and said rebel senators would be expected to resign for having "lied to voters".
That spurred over 12,000 comments on Grillo's blog post - and rising. Some accused Grillo of acting like a dictator, while other attacked the rebels for their betrayal.
On Sunday, Giuseppe Vacciano, one of the rebel senators, defended his decision to vote and said he was ready to resign if necessary. The leader of M5S in the Senate, Luis Alberto Orellana downplayed talk of division, but made a telling remark:
"We are not guided by remote control," he told the daily La Stampa. "All of us have our own sensibilities, our own conscience."
'The King is dead. Long live the King.'
Supporters of M5S should welcome the controversy - and the rebellion. In the last 24 hours, this movement of the streets has begun maturing from one's man's mission to every man's voice.
In truth, having secured the electoral promised land, Grillo should have immediately and publicly stepped back into a more presidential role within M5S.
He should have made it clear that the elected parliamentary members now carried due weight in the movement. Instead he barked orders at them.
That leadership style suited his early management of a politically unruly mob. But election success had blessed M5S with all the coherence it needed. The challenge for Grillo was to allow the movement and it's elected parliamentary representatives to counterbalance his leadership.
Grillo is now confronting that moment of transition. Which is cause for celebration.
Grillo must realize that the M5S has blossomed into something even bigger than Grillo.
Then Italy will realize the same thing.
Then the world.
Some blog comments on Grillo's rebuke of the rebels:
"Stop talking rubbish, Beppe. What do you want? To be some kind of long-distance Duce? Who do you think you are? The 'divine' interpreter of the popular will?" - Diego G
"They have to respect the rules of the movement. Kick them out." - Gionata T
"Dear Beppe, you created a wonderful thing, but I don't understand now what the aim is … euthanasia?" - Enrico Sodini