- Title: Italy's 5-Star leader Beppe Grillo holds closing rally ahead of referendum
- Date: 2nd December 2016
- Summary: ***WARNING CONTAINS FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY*** GRILLO, SURROUNDED BY 5-STAR MOVEMENT REPRESENTATIVES, SINGING "THE BLUES OF NO" ON STAGE GRILLO SINGING AND PLAYING KEYBOARDS 5-STAR MOVEMENT REPRESENTATIVES DANCING ON STAGE GRILLO SINGING ON STAGE
- Embargoed: 17th December 2016 22:11
- Keywords: Italy referendum Beppe Grillo comic 5-Star Movement constitutional reform Italy Turin rally
- Location: TURIN, ITALY
- City: TURIN, ITALY
- Country: Italy
- Reuters ID: LVA0025B701TZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Beppe Grillo, founder of the anti-euro 5-star Movement, thundered against the political establishment as he took to the stage in northern Italy's Turin on Friday (December 2) evening for a closing rally ahead of Sunday's (December 4) referendum on constitutional reform.
The 5-Star Movement, Italy's main opposition party, is calling for supporters to vote "No" in the referendum, saying Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's reforms would bring about chaos in the country.
Renzi says his plan to reduce the role of the Senate and centralize power will simplify decision making, but the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement says it will have exactly the opposite effect.
The maverick group stormed onto the national political scene in 2013 when it won more than 25 percent of the national vote, coming in a close second to Renzi's ruling Democratic Party (PD).
Grillo, former comedian, co-founded the movement whose appeal is based on a drive against the corruption that has tainted Italy's politics for decades.
"We are waging a small battle, a big small battle for freedom. If the 'Yes' vote wins, instead of being a semi-free country, we'll be a semi-semi-free country, a little less free," Grillo told the rally.
When Renzi unveiled the constitutional reform in 2014 some 70 percent of Italians supported it, and in a fit of over-confidence that he now accepts was a terrible mistake, the youthful premier tied his political future to the project.
Critics say the proposed measures will strip Italy of democratic safeguards put in place after World War Two to prevent the rise of a new strongman. But many people are expected to vote 'No' simply to voice their anger at Renzi, who has struggled to revive Italy's chronically underperforming economy.
If he loses, Italian President Sergio Mattarella is likely to try to persuade Renzi to remain in office to oversee crucial electoral reform, which would possibly allow for elections in the first half of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.
The campaign has been long and brutal, leaving the country as divided as at any time since the constitution was originally introduced in 1948, with Renzi's own party split by the reform and facing much soul searching after the vote.
Grillos' 5-Star Movement (M5S), meanwhile, offers a protest vote against hardship.
"Whether we win or lose, it's the same, the country is split in two. We will go forth, we want to bring forth a different view of the world, for the love of God. We want to go forward with the implementation of our basic income proposal, which, who knows, may become a universal basic income support plan for all," Grillo said.
"But even if we lose, it will be an extraordinary loss, which will give us even more strength. And that will be the evolution of the Movement, I'm telling you," he added.
Lending a hand to Grillo at Friday's rally was 5-Star politician Virginia Raggi, who became the mayor of Rome after winning a landslide victory in June this year. Her election to the high-profile post was meant to show the movement was ready to govern.
"They are proposing change that is based solely on the protection of their privileges and on the progressive silence of the citizens. Our answer to this reform is no, no, no," Raggi said.
Thousands of people attended Friday's rally in the northern industrial city, echoing Grillo's disdain for Renzi and Italy's political classes.
"Look, you're speaking to someone who has voted the Democratic Party (PD) for a lifetime. But it's been years now that I've lost all my faith in those people. Sometimes I am ashamed to even admit that I voted the PD," said Giuseppe Braga.
The 5-Star Movement was the most voted party in Italy at the last national election in 2013, but after the ballots were counted from Italians living abroad it was overtaken by Renzi's PD, allowing it to lead a new government.
"I am not defending Berlusconi but at least Berlusconi's proposal was better, he said we should get rid of the Senate altogether. The biggest joke about this law is that he (Renzi) wants us to believe it is a good law. He is dangerous, that man is dangerous, the sooner we get rid of him, the better it is for us," said Giuseppe Riccardi.
Opinion polls are banned in the last two weeks of campaigning. Before the blackout started on November 18, the final battery of surveys all showed the 'No' camp well ahead, but with up to 25 percent of voters still undecided.
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