After storming to victory during Italy’s 2018 election by winning 32 percent of the vote, Politico reports that the Five Star Movement’s appeal may be beginning to fade. This is because a group of the party’s politicians are openly rebelling against one of the party’s most powerful figures, Davide Casaleggio, and the online digital platform that he created, known as Rousseau.
Casaleggio conceived the Rousseau platform with the aim of transforming political representation by connecting activists directly with parliamentarians. Regardless, he holds extraordinary amounts of personal data.
This helped trigger the start of a petition signed by more than 20 Five Star lawmakers which demanded that Rousseau be managed by an elected body.
The Five Stars are in Deep Trouble
It is clear that the Five Stars are in deep trouble and this has implications for Italy’s governing coalition. If Casaleggio refuses to resign, the departure of even five or 10 MPs would put the government into difficulty in the Senate, where it no longer has an absolute majority. Italian governments are renowned for having a short lifespan and the fate of the current administration, which consists of a governing coalition of the Democratic Party and the Five Stars that was formed in September 2019, now depends upon Casaleggio’s departure.
This would mean that the government would have no choice but to hold an election.
The Five Stars Under-performed in Recent Regional Elections
The recent regional elections provide no comfort for the Five Stars either, and they would no doubt want to avoid a general election for as long as possible over fears that their dreadful performance might be repeated in a national vote. They under-performed in every region, and this is an alarming development for the Democratic Party as their only reliable governing partner may face defeat in the future.
The Brothers of Italy won control over Marche as their candidate, Francesco Acquaroli, became the region’s president.
Despite this, the League’s Matteo Salvini failed to win in Tuscany, a region that has been controlled by Italy’s left for some time. The coronavirus and an upcoming trial have reduced Salvini’s influence in Italy, as he has been unable to spell out his alternative vision for his nation whilst the government remained focus on tackling the pandemic.
The Five Stars Have Nothing Left to Stand for
The Five Stars’ unique aims of of slashing the number of MPs in the Chamber of Deputies from 630 to 400, while cutting the number of senators from 315 to 200, have also already been achieved, which leaves the movement in trouble as they have no distinguished platform in Italian politics anymore, which will make it harder for them to win votes.
However, a lot can change in politics within a short period of time. Luigi Bonatti, of the University of Trento, suggests Salvini will win Italy’s next election. Bonatti’s report, which was published by think tank EconPol, argues that the ECB will have to start increasing interest rates in 2022, which will leave Italy in serious economic trouble and play into Salvini’s hands. This is because the economic pain caused by lockdown will strengthen support for the League and the Brothers of Italy in the short-term, and voters will inevitably blame the current government for their problems.
If the Five Stars are serious about remaining in government, then they need to get a grip and resolve their internal dilemma. They and their Democratic partners also need to get serious about a post-coronavirus economic recovery as the lockdown is likely to cause long-term pain. If they fail to do this, the right could well storm into office and change Italian politics in a way that the Five Stars have so far failed to do.