For political parties that like to agitate from the fringes, joining the mainstream can lead to severe complications. Just look at Italy’s populist Five Star Movement (M5S), which has been a signed-up member of the political establishment for some time now. Until recently it had the country’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio (pictured), among its ranks – but he left the movement a week ago, taking a group of politicians with him. Their departure highlights the discord at the heart of the party over ideological splits and divergences.
In general elections slated for next year, M5S is widely expected to take a clobbering. Others, such as the far-right Fratelli d’Italia, are expected to do well despite setbacks at Sunday’s local elections. Former prime minister Matteo Renzi has even questioned whether M5S can last much longer. “Do you really believe that the Five Stars will make it to the 2023 elections?” he said earlier this month. “They fight every day.”
Di Maio’s exit has a lot to do with internal divisions over the Ukraine war. Former prime minister and M5S capo Giuseppe Conte is against sending further arms, saying that a few more Italian weapons added to larger consignments from the US and UK would do little to help the “common cause”. Di Maio, conversely, has toed the government line.
So what does this all mean? Certainly more toxicity and infighting at the heart of Italian politics and possibly another early election. With rumours circulating that technocrat prime minister Mario Draghi wants Conte sacked from M5S, the big question is whether the fragile governing coalition would collapse as a result. It’s all a noisy distraction from Italy’s desire to play senior statesmen at this week’s summits in Germany and Spain.
Ed Stocker is Monocle’s Europe editor at large.