For a foreign observer one of the mysteries about Beppe Grillo is that as a comedian he never seems to laugh. Take his photos for a start: has anyone seen a smile behind his angry scowl? Or try to understand his jokes; can anyone hear what he is saying behind that angry scream?
But results of the parliamentary elections in Italy say plainly enough that roughly a quarter of Italians, from north to south, do understand him and like both his anger and his scream.
The election results also show that roughly another quarter likes a different comedian, one with a lighter touch – Silvio Berlusconi, the cruise ship entertainer, the man with the smile and the ready joke, the man with girls on his knees who conjures paper money out of a rabbit’s ear.
It is easy to forget when watching these two comics on centre stage that there is still another half. This half takes life seriously and is neither angry nor flippant. These voters are hard working, tax paying, law abiding and desperately in search of a solution to stop the country’s steep decline.
Conventional wisdom has it that Italy is not only a breathtakingly beautiful country, where the sun shines (most of the time) and the people are friendly (most of the time) but that the genius of Italians is that in the end they always manage to muddle through.
Does conventional wisdom still hold true or is there now a tragedy playing out behind the comic masquerade?
For detailed election results see the ministry of the interior website
To read James Walston’s comment click here