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Thousands in Rome for blogger's election rally

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Tens of thousands of people turned out for the final campaign rally in Rome on Friday of the wild card in Italy's upcoming general election -- former comedian turned populist blogger Beppe Grillo.

The mostly young supporters chanted "Let's Send Them Away!", a reference to Italy's famously bickering politicians who have been implicated in a series of scandals over waste of public funds.

"This could be an important event in history," said Ruggero Moratti, a 60-year-old doctor from Florence.

"I hope Grillo will bring about a political and a civic turnaround," he said.

Antonella Ciminera, 33, said: "This is a wish come true!... He has to be a force of opposition."

Grillo has managed to channel widespread disenchantment among Italians, enduring their longest economic recession in 20 years and suffering under the weight of austerity cuts.

The tousle-haired Grillo has mobilised supporters mainly via social media and a widely-read blog, with a mixture of invective against Italy's political establishment and grassroots idealism.

His Five Star Movement's line up for the elections on Sunday and Monday has the youngest candidates of any party and polls indicate it could come third after the main centre-left and centre-right parties.

Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has implemented budget cuts and economic reforms, is expected to come fourth but could form an alliance with centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130222/thousands-rome-bloggers-election-rally