Liberals rebuff Grillo's protest party

The leadership of the liberal Alde group in the European Parliament has rejected the Italian protest party Movimento 5 Stelle's request to join it. Beppe Grillo and Alde leader Guy Verhofstadt tried to orchestrate the move in recent days but their efforts have proved futile. Journalists see this as an embarrassing episode for both politicians and a small victory for the 'better Europe'.

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Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Pact with the devil foiled

The Alde group has stood up for itself and taught its leader Guy Verhofstadt a lesson, writes Il Sole 24 Ore in delight:

“The Belgian thought he could manipulate the bloc's rank and file at will. But in the end he was forced to renounce the unnatural pact with Beppe Grillo's movement. At least this time the Europe of unscrupulous opportunism lost the battle and the better Europe has won: the Europe of values and political coherence. … This is the exemplary lesson to be learned from Verhofstadt's blunder. He wanted his group to become the third most powerful in the European parliament - after the conservatives and the socialists - and above all he wanted to secure victory for himself in the European Parliament presidential election on January 17. He was willing to do anything to achieve this goal: even to ignore his own people and sign a 'pact with the devil' secretly and behind closed doors.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Verhofstadt has made himself unelectable

With their behind-the-scenes deals Guy Verhofstadt and Beppe Grillo have damaged their own reputations in equal measure, the Tages-Anzeiger underlines:

“Grillo is against the euro, but unlike Farage he wants to stay in the EU. Switching to the liberal group promised him more power and influence. That's just what Guy Verhofstadt - who wanted to succeed Martin Schulz as president of the EU Parliament next Tuesday - was interested in as well. Now he can say goodbye to all such vague hopes. Their planned pact has benefited neither politician. Verhofstadt and Grillo both have mud on their faces now. They pressed ahead with their marriage of convenience behind the scenes, belying all their fine words about transparency. In so doing they have done nothing to lend credibility to politics - quite the contrary in fact.”

Club Z (BG) /

Brazen opportunism

The affair testifies to a lack of principles on the part of Grillo's movement, Club Z concludes:

“Movimento 5 Stelle is against the euro, Alde wants to keep it. Movimento 5 Stelle is against sanctions on Russia, Alde is resolutely in favour - and is even calling for them to be extended. Movimento 5 Stelle opposes Brussels' interference in national affairs, Alde wants to shift even more national tasks to Brussels. ... In short: the Italian comedian's cohort, which strikes fear into the hearts of the established parties in Italy, has gone from one end of the political spectrum to the other within one day. There can no longer be any talk whatsoever of principles, to say nothing of values, where Movimento 5 is concerned.”

L'Echo (BE) /

Alde rejects sham marriage with Grillo party

There are simply too many contradictions between Verhofstadt's liberal Alde group and Grillo's Movimento 5 Stelle, L'Echo concludes:

“Until now Beppe Grillo's party was allied with Verhofstadt's biggest enemy: Nigel Farage and his europhobic Ukip. You can't get farther than that from the Belgian's federalist ideals. Verhofstadt is an ardent defender of a hard line against Moscow while Beppe Grillo calls for an end to sanctions and a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin. Verhofstadt defends the single currency, Grillo wants a referendum to take Italy out of the euro. Certainly, the liberals and Grillo's movement have some common aims: transparency, more direct democracy, environmental protection. But is that enough? The answer at the end of the meeting of Alde's Bureau put an end to such hopes. No, the liberals and democrats are not ready for a sham marriage with Movimento 5 Stelle.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Protest party finally having a go at politics

Bepe Grillo's election campaign is already in full swing, La Repubblica comments:

“Grillo knows that the election campaign has started. … The Movimento 5 Stelle party can no longer appeal to the people with its 'honest dilettantism' approach [no experience, but honest politics]. That may work while you're in the opposition but it's not enough if you want to govern the country. So the party must at least give a sign that it is able to see itself as a ruling party. The alliance with the liberals in Europe, with all its glaring limitations and demonstrable contradictions, reflects its attempt to send such a message. … For the first time the movement seems to be attempting to do in the parliament in Strasbourg what it has never done in the Italian parliament: politics.”

HuffPost Italia (IT) /

A deal with Guy Verhofstadt

Grillo's sudden switch to the liberal Alde group is the result of a deal with its leader Guy Verhofstadt, Huffington Post Italia suspects:

“The top posts in Europe will soon be up for grabs again, including that of EU Parliament president. The leader of Alde, ex-Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who has always been a critic of Putin's Russian presidency, will run against Gianni Pitella of the Socialists & Democrats and Antonio Tajani of the European People's Party. It's clear that the votes of the Movimento 5 Stelle will go to [candidate] Verhofstadt if Grillo's supporters vote in favour of switching to Alde. It's just a pity that up to now he had been branded by the 'Grillitos' as 'unpresentable'. Nonetheless Grillo and [son of Movimento 5 Stelle's co-founder] Casaleggio are planning to meet with Verhofstadt on Monday in Brussels.”