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5Stars Italy is facing an identity crisis that threatens to split the movement in two.
After long defining itself as an anti-establishment movement, the party last week decided to support a government clearly led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which was brought in after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s 5Star coalition government collapsed amid disputes over pandemic relief. plan.
But a rebel group of 31 purist 5Star MPs refused to follow the decision and voted against Draghi. Another 20 did not appear for the vote. Now they all faced expulsion from the party. And the 5Star Movement is grappling with what it means for the fake outsider, the Eurosceptic group to work with Draghi, Europe’s deepest insider. Draghi once ran the European Central Bank, was vocally pro-European integration and associated with it push economic policies in Italy in 2011 that are not in line with the anti-austerity of 5Stars, the origins of Eurosceptics.
Joining Draghi’s government also meant working with arch enemy, Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
However, being in Draghi’s coalition also gives the party a platform to pursue some of its top goals – such as an environmental agenda – and participate in how to spend the € 209 billion that Italy hopes to receive from its post-pandemic EU recovery. fund.
The split over the decision marks the culmination of a long-expected split between the pragmatic and purist wings of the party, which have always been united by an unexpected mix of ideologies. And that could result in the faction that broke away from the 5Star movement to form a new party. Even before Draghi’s rebellion, more than 40 previous 5Star MPs had left the dribs and drab movement.
“5Star was created to overcome the power of financial institutions over the people and the state,” said Senator Matteo Mantero, one of the 5Stars members who voted against Draghi. “Choosing this government means denying one of the reasons we emerged.”
Make a decision about Draghi
When Draghi was tapped earlier this month to form a new coalition government, the 5Star Movement was faced with a dilemma: supporting Draghi to stay in government and compromising some long-held ideals, or opposing him, losing power and influence but maintaining ideological purity.
5Stars asks questions of its members, and nearly 60 percent followed calls from party leaders to support the new government.
That’s when the defection started. Alessandro Di Battista, a prominent figure on the purist wing of 5Stars, quit the party, proclaimed, “My political conscience can no longer continue.”
Following his leadership, 15 senators and 16 lawmakers voted against Draghi in a confident vote on Wednesday and Thursday, leading 5Stars to announce the expulsion process on Friday.
“This is not the right person to manage [EU] recovery funds, ”said Mantero, citing Draghi’s past economic position and concerns about Draghi’s push for greater European integration and more repatriation of migrants.
But party loyalists argue that getting in power allows them to advance 5Stars’ environmental agenda, and establishes some conditions, such as the creation of a new green transition super ministry.
“Being in government, we can defend the results 5Stars has achieved, improve this country and the daily lives of its citizens,” said lawmaker Valentina Barzotti in a speech to the lower house ahead of the vote.
In fighting Draghi, the dissidents also violated the internal 5 Star rule to respect the online votes of movement members.
A 5Stars senator said that following the votes of the members is sacred: “The net must decide. Anyone who votes against the wishes of a member is against party values and that is reason enough for expulsion. “
Defectors aren’t the only ones tempted to oppose Draghi, according to two 5Stars lawmakers. “There are a lot of doubts – we all have doubts,” said the senator.
Former Minister for Infrastructure Daniele Toninelli, a member of 5Stars, is open about his doubts.
In a video On social media, Toninelli said his vote for Draghi was “unconditional” and had to be earned on a daily basis.
The future of the 5Star Movement
If expelled, some dissidents say they will try to form a parliamentary group to help oppose Draghi’s rule. This may include some of those who have previously left 5Stars. In Battista beckoned she may be of help, writing on Facebook that it is “a time to build a strong opposition.”
But those close to the 5 Stars Movement say such breakaway groups will struggle to find common ground.
“It would be difficult for them to coordinate harmoniously,” said a former 5Stars insider. “They are too different – there aren’t many things that unite them.”
Others facing expulsion, including Mantero, plan to appeal their dismissal and return to 5Stars.
For now, the defection has given 5Stars less leverage in government – there are now more right-wing senators backing Draghi than representatives of the center-left.
In the long term, supporting established parties like Forza Italia could hurt 5Stars in the polls, said Lorenzo Pregliasco of polling firm You Trend.
“Supporting old political parties can have an impact on their vote,” said Pregliasco, adding that Draghi was less popular with 5Stars voters than Conte, the previous prime minister.
Currently, the 5 Star vote is only 15 percent nationally – down from the 32 percent that brought them to power in 2018.If that number holds, nearly three-quarters, or about 200 5 Star lawmakers, will lose their seats in the next election. .
Such an outcome could signal a ebb in the populist wave that brought 5 Stars to power in 2018.
Analysts say the 5Star Movement’s best chance of remaining a mainstream party is aligning itself with Conte, who has no party affiliation but is close to 5Stars and held approval ratings of above 60 percent for most of the past year.
Conte has for now returned to his job at the University of Florence, without making clear his next political move. But at his last press conference as prime minister, he suggested he could return, saying “to my friends in the 5Star Movement: I am here and I will be here.”