“The mainstream parties are finished! They won’t survive for long,” announced Beppe Grillo, after his Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) won 25 percent of the votes in the Italian elections. Grillo’s anti-establishment message and his rejection of mainstream media in favour of campaigning and organizing through social media could presage a new type of political party. It is perhaps unprecedented in modern European politics to grow in popularity from just five per cent in national polls to become the single largest party in the Italian Senate only one year later. At this event, Jamie Bartlett of the think-tank Demos presents his new report about Beppe Grillo and the M5S, New political actors in Europe: Beppe Grillo and the M5S, supported by the Open Society Foundations. This report is based on a survey of almost 2,000 Facebook fans of Grillo and his movement; it provides unprecendent insight into Grillo’s supporters, methods, and aspirations.
The success of Grillo poses many questions, not only for Italian politics but also for Europe: Will he transform Italian politics? Are traditional political parties declining as internet-based political campaigning grows? Is Beppe Grillo a harbinger of a general rise of populist parties and movements in Europe that benefits from voters’ desire to punish political elites?
Jamie Bartlett, senior researcher at Demos and co-author of the report, presents the main findings and their implications for European politics and parties. James Fontanella-Khan, correspondent for the Financial Times in Brussels, responds, with a debate moderated by Heather Grabbe, director of the Open Society European Policy Institute.