the global coalition for democracy

Interview: Italian Protest and Beppe Grillo

Interview: Italian Protest and Beppe Grillo


In recent months, people are more and more going to the streets to voice their discontent and anger. Greece and Spain set good examples as several hundred thousands citizens are demonstrating. Yet, this is not an absolute new phenomenon. Many countries have a history of citizen's engagement: the Beppe Grillo movement has been active in Italy since 2007, engaging masses to voice their demands. Many Internet scholars believe it to be among the first campaigns mobilized by social media and the use of blogs. We have talked to Micaela Bracciaferri, a participant of this movement.


Can you tell us about the Beppe Grillo movement?

Beppe Grillo started off as a comedian and actor. Soon, his work became more political. Nowadays, he is an influential blogger and activist. He has spearheaded several national and international political campaigns.

For example, in 2007, he initiated the V-Day. The V stands for three Italian terms, that are 'vendetta', 'vengeance', and 'vaffanculo'. Loosely translated, it means 'F*** off'. During the V-Day celebrations, Beppe Grillo pointed out the names of two dozens Italian politicians who have criminal records. Most have been convicted because of corruption and tax evasion, but also abetting murder. Further, he petitioned for a Bill of Popular Initiative, aiming to remove members of the Italian parliament from their position if they hold a criminal record. The V-Day celebrations was joined by two million people.

In 2008, the V2-Day took place. This rally addressed the lacking freedom of the press. The Italian media is heavenly supported by government funds. Both rallies were a huge success! Many Internet scholars believe it to be among the first campaigns mobilized by social media and the use of blogs.

That is interesting! How did the movement proceed? Did it evolve to take actively part in politics?

Yes, we did indeed! During the V2-Day, Beppe Grillo presented the Liste a cinque stelle (Five-star electoral list). The five star stand for the standard of quality: environment, water, development, connectivity, and transportation. The stars form our agenda.

The movement participated in the 2009 municipal election. Candidates need to fulfill the following conditions: not to be a member of any other party, to have no criminal record, not to have been elected for that position more than once in the past, and to be a resident of the city for which he/she candidates. We want to ensure a true people' movement! The candidate does not need to have a political background, but should be rather an ordinary citizen, who wants to share his expertise with the municipality. Further, the movement insisted not to waste tax money; we refused the reimbursement, which the government normally pays to allow for the campaign work.

Did the movement participate in further elections?

In 2010, Beppe Grillo started the 'Movimento 5 stelle' (Movement 5 Stars) to emphasize the standard of quality: environment, water, development, connectivity, and transportation. Beppe Grillo declared that he does not want to be the leader, but that the movement should be self-sustained by free citizens expressing their free will, sharing their ideas and projects.

With this movement, we took part in the 2011 regional elections. We are proud to have achieved great success! In several regions, especially in the north, our candidates passed the three percent- threshold. Some candidates even obtained ten percent of the votes! Hence, in many councils the movement became the third political force, after the main coalition parties, which have been in power since 17 years. That is a great achievement!

However, we do not yet aim to obtain the majority; our goal is to have one elected member in each Regional Government. Having one representative means keeping the entire network and the citizens transparently informed on what’s going on at local political level. In that way, the movement can grow and mature.

That is indeed a great success! How do you personally engage in the movement?

As I am living in Paris, I am engaging in the Meet Up group “Les Amis de Beppe Grillo à Paris”. It is a free network where citizens can meet, plan joint events and carry on projects. Our group has been established in 2007 and since then, we have organized more than 200 meetings and several conferences and debates on the topic of democracy. We are linking the Italian community in Paris with the Movimento 5 Stelle, yet we do not depend directly on the movement.

Further, I am very engaged with the topic of public water. Water is a crucial aspect to guarantee the standard of quality. In our opinion, water is a common good and public access is a human right. Water should not be used to obtain profit. However, there are plans in Italy to privatize the water supply, which have outraged many citizens. Our campaign “ L'acqua non si vende” aims to stop the privatization of water. The campaign initiated a referendum on this matter, which took place in June. With a great majority, the citizens voted against the privatization of water supply. A great success, yet our fight is not over. We aim to create a network on EU-level to ensure that water stays a common and not an economic good.

The campaign has a branch in France, for which I am the spokesperson. It is important to address Italians living in France as they can participate in the referendum. As Italian law demands a minimum voter participation of 50% in any referendum, it is important to activate as many people as possible. In Paris, the water supply was first privatized, but soon after the decision was revised, and the supply was made public again. This example is perfect to state our case! Further, public water supply is not only important for Italy, but concerns every other country as well. Thus, it is important to have international efforts.

Earlier this year, a referendum concerning water supply took place in Berlin. A great majority of 92 percent voted for more transparency. Thus, public water is a hot topic all over Europe! Citizens' engagement seems to define the movement. Many argue that the same is valid for the so-called European summer. Do you feel connected to the Spanish protests?

Yes, to certain extent I would agree that the European summer and our movement share similarities. An important similarity is citizens' engagement. Ordinary people are going on the streets to voice their demands. Furthermore, we have similar demands. The Spanish protesters ask for economic upswing, transparency and direct democracy.

The Beppo Grillo movements aims for enhanced direct democracy as well. We propose a change in the electoral law. In the moment, you vote for a party and not directly for a candidate. But that is wrong! Politicians should work for the citizens and not for political parties. Thus, we want to be able to vote directly for a candidate.

Nonetheless, there are differences to the Spanish movement. Although Beppo Grillo is not the leader, he is the spearhead, the face of the movement. He writes a central blog. Our organization is a little bit different. However, we are all citizens aiming to engage in politics. That aspect strongly unites us!

Thank you for the interview!

The Interview was conducted by Vanessa Eggert.

More Information:

Website Info

Democracy International is a registered association in Germany
(eingetragener Verein e.V.).

Gürzenichstraße 21 a-c
50667 Cologne
Phone: +49 (0) 221 669 66 50
Fax: +49 (0) 221 669 665 99

Amtsgericht Köln
VR-Nr. 17139

Full website information here

Data protection - Datenschutz


Democracy International e.V.
IBAN: DE 58370205000001515101

Bank für Sozialwirtschaft
Konto: 1515101
BLZ: 37020500


Sign up

to our news, analyses and features on direct democracy worldwide!


Follow us