May 23, 2012 06:32 PM IST | Source: Reuters

Italy comic's party leaps in poll, Berlusconi's fades

ITALY-POLL:Italy comic's party leaps in poll, Berlusconi's fades

ROME (Reuters) - Comedian Beppe Grillo's Five-Star Movement has become Italy's second most popular party after dealing a stunning blow to traditional parties in Monday's local elections, an Ipsos poll broadcast by state TV late on Tuesday showed.

The People of Liberty (PDL) party headed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned in November as debt costs soared and a prostitution scandal swirled, plummeted to third place for the first time since it was formed in 2008.

The Five-Star Movement would win 18.5 percent of the vote, compared with the PDL's 17.2 percent, were national elections held this week, the poll showed.

The centre-left's Democratic Party (PD) is the country's biggest with 26.7 percent support, the poll showed.

The Ipsos poll showed that the Five-Star Movement would be a force to be reckoned with in next year's national election, and signalled a major shift in the political landscape as the 75-year-old Berlusconi's sway over voters fades.

It also confirmed an increasing distaste with parties that ruled Italy for eight years in the last decade but failed to make desperately needed economic reforms and have been caught up in a series of corruption scandals.

Berlusconi's former ally, the Northern League, lost all seven mayoral races it was in on Monday, and the poll put its support at 4.6 percent, less than half what it had a few months ago before its leader, Umberto Bossi, became embroiled in a party funding scandal.

Grillo, a shaggy-haired comic, has launched vitriolic attacks on the traditional parties, saying they are dead and their leaders are "zombies."

The Five-Star Movement's four new mayors are all political newcomers, with an average age of less than 32, and one of them, Federico Pizzarotti, spent only 6,000 euros in his successful campaign to become mayor of Parma, a prosperous city of almost 190,000 people.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Gavin Jones, editing by Tim Pearce)

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