Italy plunged deeper into political chaos this weekend after Beppe Grillo, the quixotic former comedian who holds the balance of power in parliament, suggested that the country may have to abandon the euro and return to the lire.
The rebel comic’s warning came amid a growing rebellion among grass-roots supporters of his Five Star Movement, with 150,000 signing a petition calling for him to open up dialogue with the centre-Left Democratic Party, the biggest force in parliament.
In an interview with a German magazine, Mr Grillo warned that “if conditions do not change” Italy “will want” to leave the euro and return to the lire. The 64-year-old comic-turned-political activist also said Italy needs to renegotiate its €2 trillion debt.
At 127 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), it is the highest in the euro zone after Greece. “Right now we are being crushed, not by the euro, but by our debt,” he told Focus, a weekly news magazine. “When the interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we’re dead. There’s no alternative.”
He said Italy was in such dire economic straits that “in six months, we will no longer be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees“.
Mr Grillo, renowned for his blistering attacks on Italy’s established political caste, last week called Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party “a dead man talking”.
In the interview published yesterday he predicted the annihilation of both the centre-Left and the centre-Right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi, the 76-year-old playboy who has been prime minister three times. They would be around for another “six months” but then they would be “finished”, he said.
Full article: Italy paralysed as Grillo plots exit route from euro (The Telegraph)