Italy's comedian-cum-power broker will have raised further eyebrows in Eurocrat circles today with a suggestion that Italy ought to leave the single currency.
In an interview with a German magazine, Beppe Grillo said “if conditions do not change” Italy “will want” to leave the euro and return to the Lire.
Mr Grillo’s Five Star Movement won more than a quarter of the vote in Italy’s general election last week, but he refuses to cut a deal with the centre-Left Democratic Party, which has slim control of the upper and lower houses of parliament but lacks a big enough majority to form a government.
The 64-year-old comic-turned-political activist also said Italy needs to renegotiate its €2 trillion debt, which at 127 per cent of GDP is the highest in the euro zone after Greece.
“Right now we are being crushed, not by the euro, but by our debt. When the interest payments reach €100 billion a year, we’re dead. There’s no alternative,” he told Focus, a weekly news magazine.
“In six months, we will no longer be able to pay pensions and the wages of public employees.”
Mr Grillo has called Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani “a dead man talking” and predicted the annihilation of both the centre-Left and the centre-Right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi within months.
The election resulted in Italy's first hung parliament in modern history and raised fears of instability across the Eurozone, where leaders want Italy to push on with an austerity drive first enacted by former technocrat prime minister Mario Monti.
Italy’s new parliament has to meet by March 15 at the latest, after which formal talks with President Giorgio Napolitano on the formation of a new government are scheduled.
Markets were jittery in trading on Friday, with the Milan index plunging 1.54 percent - the worst performer among major European stock markets.