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Grillo mounts fiery attack on Renzi in government talks

M5S chief calls premier-designate 'not credible'

19 February, 16:47
Grillo mounts fiery attack on Renzi in government talks (By Christopher Livesay) (ANSA) - Rome, February 19 - In some of the final steps before becoming the youngest premier in Italian history, Matteo Renzi on Wednesday held government-formation consultations with the leaders of Italy's major parties, culminating in a fiery confrontation with the head of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), Beppe Grillo, broadcast live on TV and the Web.

The short meeting was marked by interruptions from Grillo, a comic-turned-politician, that degenerated into shouting condemnation against the 39-year-old, whom he accused of being of the old guard despite his young age, as the head of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) is about to become Italy's third-straight unelected premier. Joined by M5S bigwigs inside parliament offices, Grillo latched on to Renzi's oft-made promises to not seek the premiership without a vote, only to stage a party coup last week to topple outgoing Premier Enrico Letta's executive for allegedly not moving swiftly enough to pass electoral and economic reforms. "We came (to these talks) to show our total indignation for what you represent: we are consistent, you are not credible," said Grillo during the unexpected encounter. Grillo, whose M5S stormed to second in general elections on an anti-government platform last year, had called the meetings a "farce" on Tuesday.

But he was forced to come to the table after members of his populist Internet-based movement voted in favor of them by a slim margin in an online vote. Just before entering the talks, Grillo ridiculed the premier-designate by launching the Twitter hashtag #sfiduciamoRenzie, which roughly translates to "no-confidence for Renzie" - a mocking reference to the character Fonzie from the 1970s sitcom Happy Days, given Renzi's taste for leather jackets and sunglasses. "If it were up to me I wouldn't be here," said Grillo inside the meetings. "I don't have a list of topics because I'm not here to hold democratic discussions with a system I want to eliminate.

"We have no type of faith in you or your system". Unlike at other party meetings that took place behind closed doors, the M5S insisted on streaming theirs live, as it did in similar talks last year with then-PD chief Pier Luigi Bersani. At the time, millions of Italians watched Bersani plead with M5S whips to compromise in order to forge a governing alliance.

Their outright refusal became a major factor behind the ensuing two months of government deadlock, leading to Bersani's resignation and the formation of Letta's unnatural coalition between the center left and the center right. Its intrinsic tension ultimately made governing difficult and limited its lifespan.

Other parties have ruled out joining Renzi partly because the same left-right composition is likely to remain in his executive. Regardless, Renzi predicts he will have the support he needs for a governing majority by the weekend. Not to be outdone as a fast-talker, he called Grillo's behavior Wednesday "undemocratic". "This isn't a trailer for your show," Renzi said. "I don't know if you're having troubles with bookings for it. "Your people asked you to meet me but you've never been democratic". "Get out of your blog".

A few minutes later, Renzi called an end to the meeting-turned-argument. Later at a press conference, Renzi said he was "embarassed" for Grillo and his M5S members. "I saw the embarassed faces of his followers," he said.

"Grillo won't dialogue even after his Movement told him to".