Popular Resistance to Corruption in Italy

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Global Information Society Watch 2012
Andrea Cairola, with support from Juan Carlos De Martin, Giacomo Mazzone and Arturo Di Corinto
10 December 2012

Italy has widespread corruption, estimated at about 60 billion euro by official sources, mostly occurring in the infrastructure sector, public procurement (especially in the health sector), the privatisation of state properties and utilities, licences for public goods and services, and real estate development. Italy is one of the worst performing European Union (EU) countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Furthermore, observers often refer to “legal corruption”, that is to say, resources and privileges given to political parties as well as to elected officials without any reasonable requirement for minimum accountability. Such a phenomenon is widely considered by the public as “immoral” and as a hidden form of corruption, although formally it is not illegal. In this context, over the past three decades all the attempts to eradicate endemic corruption through judiciary actions or popular initiatives have failed. But in recent years the internet seems to have offered a new tool and hope to the popular opposition fighting against corruption – and a unique political and social movement has formed thanks to the potential of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the web. It all started through the unusual partnership between a science-fiction and internet expert and a popular comedian, resulting in the creation of what became the most popular and influential Italian blog: www.beppegrillo.it. The blog acted firstly as a powerful catalyst for anti-corruption activism and street rallies, involving hundreds of thousands of participants; and then as a platform for triggering what we could now call an Italian version of the Pirate Party: the Five Star Movement (“Movimento 5 stelle”). This movement has been created around a programme against corruption, and during the latest administrative elections (May 2012) it became the third-largest political entity in the country.

The paper is available in PDF format.