ROME Feb 28 A growing number of young Italians
plan to show their dismay with national politics by turning in
invalid ballots in April's election, egged on by email campaigns
and calls to boycott the familiar cast of ageing politicians.
Voting for Italy's 62nd post-war government comes amid a
deepening sense of gloom, and few are as disillusioned with the
squabbling political class as Italians in their 20s and 30s.
They expect little to change no matter who comes to power.
"It's always the same faces, the same politicians who give
no hope things will get any better," said Niccolo Parri, 31, a
doctor who plans to turn in an empty ballot.
He is one of many attracted by the words of comedians
like Beppe Grillo, who has urged Italians to say "F..k off" to
politicians, and Rosario Fiorello, who last week told Italians
to "tear up their ballots and throw them in the streets".
About 6 to 8 percent of voters -- mainly young people in the
north -- have been swept up in the "anti-politics" movement,
estimates the pollster Luigi Crespi.
"We'll see a major increase in the number of protest votes
and the number of people writing 'Vaffanculo' (F..k off) on the
ballot form or handing in blank ballots," Crespi said.
He estimates the number of blank ballots will nearly triple
to about 1 million during the April 13-14 election from about
400,000 in the last parliamentary election two years ago.
Grillo, who has said he will not vote, used his popular blog
to urge Germany to cart off Italy's "toxic waste" politicians.
Fiorello toned down his comments on not voting but pop star
Zucchero has stepped in, saying Italy needs a revolution and that
politicians will get the message if nobody shows up to vote.
Italy has been plunged into gloom over the past year, with a
new book on politicians' fat pay and perks outraging people
already weighed down by high prices and stagnant salaries.
Exasperation is particularly high among those in their 20s
and 30s, many stuck in poorly paid temporary jobs with little
security or prospects, forcing them to live with their parents.
The best jobs are held by the over 50s and in geriatric
business and political circles even 40-somethings are upstarts.
The Bank of Italy says the wage gap between old and young
shot up from 20 percent in the late 1980s to 35 percent in the
early 2000s, partly due to the growth of short-term contracts.
"Small cohorts of young workers seem to bear the burden of
high social security contributions and tax rates, slow growth of
real wages and meagre pension benefits," its economists said.
Outgoing Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, centre-left candidate
for prime minister, wants to tap into the disenchantment.
At 52, he is two decades younger than the centre right's
Silvio Berlusconi and made headlines by putting up a 27-year-old
economist for parliament. But many are not buying that either.
"I voted for the left in 2006 and I've discovered they've
not done even a single thing they promised during their
campaign," said Roman Malych, 37, who helped organize a
Grillo-inspired 'Vaffa-day' rally in Rome last year.
"As for the right, it's the same people over and over again.
There are plenty of people like me in their 30s who feel
unrepresented by all these old politicians."
The information technology consultant says he believes in
voting so plans to show up at the polling booth, but will have
an electoral worker certify that he refused to vote.
Malych says he caught on to the idea from an email being
passed around, which he publicised on a Website he set up with
his friends that he says has over 50,000 members.
Sergio Romano, a well-known political commentator, says he
too receives angry letters saying nobody should vote, but that
the jury is still out on how many will really boycott the polls.
"I don't think Italians will turn their back on politics,"
he said. "They are terribly disappointed by the political farce.
What they seem to want is a different kind of politics."
(Editing by Tim Pearce)