Can the five-star movement join the group of socialists and democrats?

What other than its name does the Five Star Movement (M5S) in its present form have in common with the idealistic, complex – and perhaps somewhat naïve – creation of a 2009 protest led by the hugely popular, hard-hitting, political satire comedian Beppe Grillo? Very few indeed.

And why will it be difficult for all those who sell the idea that the M5S can now function as a reliable partner in a left group at the level of the European Parliament, to convince their constituents that at national level there will be coherence ? Does this choice mean that both the Democratic Party (PD) and the Five Stars stand to lose as much as they gain in terms of voter loyalty?

To answer all these questions, we must take a step back and refresh our memory on the evolution of the Movement. In short, the M5S was founded in September 2009, when Grillo presented a program based on the principles of direct democracy as an evolution of representative democracy. The idea was that citizens would no longer delegate their rights and duties to political parties which, according to Grillo, are there to serve the interests of pressure groups and financial powers rather than those of their electorate. The Movement also wanted to create an innovative collective intelligence via the Internet. In fact, his political discourse often refers to the Internet as a solution to Italy’s many social, economic and environmental problems.

The M5S caused a stir in Italian politics and establishment parties found themselves catching up. In three years, he became a force to be reckoned with. Themes such as environmental protection, direct citizen participation, forms of digital democracy, initiatives for a better quality of life and greater social justice are essential. From an economic point of view, it embraced the theories of degrowth, the creation of so-called “green” jobs, and the refusal to pollute and according to them not urgent. Grandi Opera (literally Major Projects).

But the noble idealism of the Movement and the competence of the visionary Casaleggio quickly began to falter when the reality arose through misunderstandings, selfishness, ignorance of political institutions and of the law itself, months spent on issues. such as same-sex marriage, migration from Africa continent, acceptance of the Dublin agreement on the responsibility of the country of entry of refugees into the EU.

Pay attention to what you want and, more importantly, what you promise could be a good warning to the M5S organization and its followers. Reading his journey from voice of protest to political party within the rigid structures of the Italian political machine, it seems that the organizers themselves were not sure what they were creating and did not expect to be. held accountable to the electorate for which they created it. Grillo sincerely believed that he and most of Italy read the same page of the hymn sheet.

Who has the Movement attracted?

At first, Grillo was unwilling to form political alliances or be characterized as one of the old political entities. The M5S had what appeared to be a left stance on some issues and a right stance on others. Political observer Paolo Natale says that in the early years of the party’s great success, around 2012, the M5S was made up mostly of highly educated young people who had left-wing political positions, people looking for other ways to get there. good administration, quality public transport, green spaces, the fight against crime. Some of the M5S rules include the acceptance that politics is a temporary duty: no one can run for office more than twice, which means politics should not become a career. He also rejects campaign contributions and M5S candidates must not have any criminal records.

The growth of the M5S has been meteoric by Italian standards. In the legislative elections of March 2018, it became the largest single party, with 32.7% of the vote and 227 seats in the House. He has started coalition talks with the center-left PD. Matteo Renzi (then secretary of the PD and now head of Italia Viva) rejected the deal, so the M5S turned to the right-wing League. The talks resulted in the proposal of a so-called “government of change” under the leadership of Giuseppe Conte, a law professor close to M5S. A post-election poll supported the move, as 56% of Five Star Movement voters preferred a government coalition with the League. while 22% preferred a coalition with a center-left coalition led by the Democrats. Yet after Salvini’s surprising political suicide in the summer of 2019, a second Conte executive was formed with the Democrats. Today, Draghi heads a coalition government made up of both center-left and center-right parties, but the Five Star Movement is still struggling to find an agreement with either of them. them.

The position of the Five Star Movement in Europe

In order to achieve direct democracy, the M5S chose its Italian and European parliamentary candidates through the online vote of registered members of Beppe Grillo’s blog. Via Rousseau, a web application, registered users discuss, approve or reject legislative proposals which are then submitted to Parliament by M5S elected officials. The choice to support the abolition of a law against immigrants was taken online even though the final decision was contrary to the opinions of Grillo and Casaleggio. The partnership with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) was also decided by online voting.

The M5S has often criticized European Union and euro policy, but as on other issues its position is at times ambiguous and opportunistic. When its activists had a limited-choice online referendum to choose a group for the party, 78% of participating activists voted for the Eurosceptic EFDD.

In January 2017, the M5S attempted to change affiliation within the European Parliament, moving from EFDD to ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe). Despite the initial optimism, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt refused admission of the M5S to the group due to insufficient guarantees on a common position on European integration. Grillo blamed the establishment for the rejection.

The M5S position on immigration is also ambiguous. In 2016, Grillo wrote in his blog that “all illegal immigrants should be expelled from Italy, that Schengen should be temporarily suspended in the event of a terrorist attack, and that the Dublin regulation on point of entry liability” should be revised. In 2017, Luigi Di Maio, who would lead the M5S in the 2018 elections, called for the immediate end of the “maritime taxi service” bringing migrants back to Europe. Di Maio also said he supported a referendum for Italy to leave the eurozone. However, he rejected this referendum proposal in January 2018, declaring that “the European Union is the home of M5S”.

Recent performances in Europe

In the 2019 European Parliament elections, the Five Star Movement saw a drop in its share of votes and the number of seats held. Looking at the 2014 European elections, the party won 21.2% of the vote and 17 seats; while in the 2019 elections, the party won 17.1% of the vote and 14 seats. The League overtook them in terms of vote share and seats by a large margin. After the result, the transparency of the Rousseau platform was called into question and the party leader Di Maio was criticized by officials. He called for a vote of confidence in his leadership which he won with the support of 80% of the membership. He pledged to reform the M5S into a more traditional political party.

Further hiccups followed when Di Maio stepped down and was replaced by Vito Crimi. On January 26, Conte resigned his post as Prime Minister. The debate over whether to support a government led by economist Mario Draghi sparked a split within the party and saw the expulsion of M5S parliamentarians who voted against the former ECB president. Then, in August of this year, Conte was elected head of the Five Star Movement with 93% of the vote in his favor.

How will the electorate of the Five Star Movement view their party’s position in Europe?

The M5S has knocked on the doors of the EU and is not receiving the reception they expected. Past anti-European positions on immigration, fondling the proposal to abolish the euro, disruptions caused by No Tav, flirting with Nigel Farage, etc., are not forgotten by policymakers. At the moment, Conte’s proposals are in the works and his “new broom cleans” approach.

And behind the scenes, a populist, Eurosceptic, anti-immigration far-right League with which the M5S had no trouble sleeping and a pro-European coalition with the center-left Democratic Party. At present, developments suggest that they will opt for the latter party.

Can M5S be trusted in Europe and can it coexist with PD under the same umbrella at European level? And what does this mean for politics at the national level? Will voters accept what to many observers is just an opportunistic calculation, exactly what the M5S is committed to fighting against? Are they also going to be pragmatic and say, ‘This is politics, go ahead and solve some of the country’s problems? “

Angela Mauro’s headline on her blog Huffington Post indicates that “part of the PD group does not want M5S in the socialist bloc”. She also points out that the haste of M5S to join may be due to the deadline for appointment to the positions to which they aspire and which are more accessible if one belongs to a group and is not a simple Non-Member, with little or no chance of essential support

Conte recently pointed out in an article on Facebook “With the new statute, the Five Star Movement can count on a new structure, new tools, new roles, with new useful rules to regulate the internal structure and external relations. Today’s vote is not an end but a beginning. All new except the name.

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