Debutants’ bAll

The Internet-savvy comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement won a quarter of the popular vote in its first ever participation.

Written by Aleesha Matharu | Published:December 15, 2013 2:50 am

The spectacular debut of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi took all by surprise. It is not the first example though of small,new parties winning votes recently,banking on people’s disillusionment

Italy

The Internet-savvy comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement won a quarter of the popular vote in its first ever participation in a federal election this year and is the biggest single party in the House of Representatives. The MoVimento 5 Stelle (M5S) grew over the course of less than 12 months to take 25.6 per cent in the lower house of parliament (the Chamber of Deputies). Grillo’s party’s “anti-system” message drew strong support from both right and left,buoyed by corruption scandals that had undermined voters’ faith in government. M5S was particularly successful among the 20 and 30 age group,known in Italy as “Generation 1,000 euros” — well-educated young people who,after graduation,have to get by working in internships,temporary jobs or with short-term contracts,earning no more than 1,000 euros per month.

Germany

Between September 2011 and May 2012,a little-known political group known as the Pirate Party,under Bernd Schlömer,took 15 seats in Berlin’s House of Representatives,with 8.9 per cent of the vote. Currently,the Pirate Party has more than 45 Landtag (state parliament) members and 193 municipal council seats. Party membership also rose spectacularly — from 12,000 in June 2011 to 34,000 in September 2012. The Pirate Party’s campaign in Berlin was dominated by a poster drive advertising the messages: ‘Our candidates are just normal people not remote professional politicians’; ‘We are new,different’; and ‘We have the questions,you have the answers’. For many of the Pirates’ voters it was either their first election or they had previously been non-voters.

Israel

The Yesh Atid (which means ‘there is a future’ in Hebrew) party,led by TV anchor Yair Lapid,won 19 seats in the 2013 Israeli national election,an amazing feat as the party was only nine months old. The centre-left party came in second after the right-wing Likud-Beitenu,led by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Lapid formed a coalition with Likud and was appointed finance minister. Yesh Atid made the issues of affordable housing and help for small businesses a key part of its platform,tapping into popular discontent. Lapid called for a more equitable system of national service,ending exemptions for the ultra-orthodox community — to which there is growing opposition in Israel. He also urged a resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Iceland

The Best Party was founded by Jón Gnarr in November 2009. For voters fed up with politics,Gnarr,a former punk rocker and stand-up comedian,offered an attractive protest vote. He formed the Best Party as a joke and larded his campaign platform with proposals he literally promised he wouldn’t keep: a polar bear display for the city zoo,a drug-free parliament by 2020,free towels in the municipal swimming pools. The results,in May 2010,stunned the political establishment as the party took 34.7 per cent of the vote,giving it six out of Reykjavik’s 15 council seats and,after a coalition with the Social Democrats,control of city hall.

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