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Italian comic has the last laugh in local elections

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Italian comic has the last laugh in local elections

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An Italian comic who wants his country to default on its debt and return to the lira has made big gains in local elections.

The Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo won big in an apparent protest over austerity measures.

Grillo’s party picked up 20 percent of ballots cast in Parma, beating Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People Of Freedom.

The movement also won as much as 15 per cent in Genoa, embarrassing mainstream parties that support the country’s technocratic government.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, said he would continue to support Prime Minister Mario Monti, despite the message from voters and his party’s heavy losses.

“I just hope Monti listens a bit more,” he said.

The election of city mayors and councillors will have no direct impact on the former European commissioner’s planned spending cuts.

But it could spell further political instability down the line:

National elections are due next year and with the main parties out of favour with the public, Monti could struggle to push through further reforms to curb Italy’s massive public debt.