Italian comic Grillo's party gains ground in opinion poll

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 19, 2012 1:35 PM
Italian comic Grillo's party gains ground in opinion poll

ROME (Reuters) - The popularity of comic Italian Beppe Grillo's 5-Star Movement edged higher in October, a poll showed on Friday, putting it just five percentage points behind the top placed party six months before a national vote.

Deep recession and a series of recent corruption scandals are stoking popular disillusionment with the traditional parties that have governed Italy for the past two decades, and many turning Italians toward newcomers like Grillo.

Support for the 5-Star Movement rose to 21 percent from 18 percent a month ago, with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) at 25.9 percent, up from 25 percent, an SWG poll said.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's once dominant People of Liberty (PDL) party is now in third place, with 14.3 percent, losing almost five percentage points in the past month.

The number of voters who do not plan to vote or who are undecided has risen to 47 percent, up from about 42 percent.

Current Prime Mario Monti took over an unelected government in November to try to save Italy from a Greek-style debt debacle, replacing Berlusconi, who is now on trial charged with paying for sex with an underage prostitute and corrupting a public official, accusations he denies.

Monti has repeatedly said he will not stand in the next election, but would be willing to step in afterwards if there is no clear result.

Sixty-two-year-old Grillo, renowned for his vitriolic diatribes against conventional politicians, swam the Straits of Messina that divide Sicily from the mainland last week to kick off a campaign in local elections on the island.

Constantly bashing the "thieves" of the political class, he is capitalizing on the spate of scandals that have hit Berlusconi's PDL particularly hard.

The PDL governor of the wealthy Lombardy region around Milan has said he will call a vote three years before the end of his mandate after a member of his cabinet, also from the PDL, was arrested last week on suspicion of buying votes from the Calabrian mafia.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Jon Hemming)