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02/27/2013

Send in the clowns ...

Pier Luigi Bersani

Pier Luigi Bersani barely won a plurality in Italy's lower house. The current gridlock is no laughing matter for him -- or the rest of the world. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

The comedic drama in Italian politics is far better than any reality show on TV these days.

Sounds like Italian President Giorgio Napolitano cancelled dinner with a German politician Wednesday in a bit of a snit. Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck publicly made a comment describing what, no doubt, many people are thinking. Reuters is reporting he called both Beppe Grillo, the leader of the anti-establishment party Five Star Movement, and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi “clowns.”

That comment caused Napolitano, 87, to cancel his dinner date with Steinbrueck.

Berlusconi, a 76-year-old media tycoon who has gained worldwide notoriety for his bunga-bunga sex parties, has stunned political watchers after he has staged a triumphant political comeback. Berlusconi currently faces a trial next month for charges he had sex with an underage prostitute.

Grillo, a comedian and leader of a protest movement, has been celebrating a third place victory in both the House of Parliament and the Senate. His election campaign consisted of holding national “Go F—k Yourself Days.”

Truth be told, none of us should be laughing. The gridlock results of the Italian election sent world markets south earlier this week as the vote was seen as the Italians thumbing their noses up at the European Union.

In a recession since 2011 and faced with sky-high youth unemployment rates, the vote shows Italians no longer want to take part in austerity measures. Both Grillo and Berlusconi campaigned against higher taxes and government cuts to try and stimulate economic growth.

Now Napolitano, a former communist, must try to get everyone – including centre-left leader Pierluigi Bersani who barely controls the lower House – working together to try and form a coalition.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's Global Economics Reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

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