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Five Stars and a Cricket. Beppe Grillo Shakes Italian Politics


The article focuses on a new political player: the Five Star Movement led by the comedian Beppe Grillo. The party lies at the junction between different organisational models and conceptions of democracy: it combines an online and an offline presence; it has ‘horizontal’ structural elements, but a top-down decision-making process; it is positioned ‘beyond’ ideologies, while its electorate comes from various political families. The work considers the history, message, leader, organisation and electoral base of the movement, as well as the political opportunity structure that facilitated its growth in 2012 and the challenges it faces in the delicate phase of institutionalisation.

For some time now a new actor has been present on the Italian political scene, attracting interest from scholars and observers at both a national and international level – the MoVimento 5 Stelle (‘Five Stars Movement’) led by Beppe Grillo (whose surname, in Italian, means ‘cricket’), hereinafter referred to as the M5S or MoVimento. The M5S has made internet and the potential offered by Web 2.0 one of its major organisational resources, but also a fundamental element of its conception of politics and democracy. However, the mobilisation stimulated and encouraged by theM5S does not just take place online but also offline in local communities. This has given rise to an innovative experience in Italian politics. In some ways, it can be likened to that of other emerging groups in Europe, especially to the various expressions of the pirate party, though it has certain specificities that set it apart.

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