Wednesday

21st Nov 2018

Italy's Grillo survives EU parliament fiasco

  • Most commentators have ridiculed Grillo’s justifications, as well as his allergy to self-criticism. (Photo: Matteo Pezzi)

Seven days of media crossfire about its botched attempt to reposition itself on the European political landscape seem to have done little to dent the electoral appeal of the Five Star Movement (M5S), Italy’s high-flying radical opposition party.

Last Monday (9 January), M5S was blocked by liberal Alde MEPs from joining their group in the European Parliament, after M5S leader Beppe Grillo tried to switch allegiance from the eurosceptic EFDD group to the pro-EU and pro-euro Alde led by former Belgian premier Guy Verhofstadt.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The ALDE deal was approved by almost 80 per cent of the 40,654 M5S members. (Photo: drpavloff)

That left Grillo walking back to the EFDD, led by Nigel Farage's Ukip party, and blaming “the system” for the debacle.

“The establishment decided to stop the Five Star Movement’s entry in the third-biggest group of the European Parliament,” he wrote.

“All possible forces mobilised against us. We rattled the system more than ever before,” he claimed.

The attempted switch had been announced via Grillo’s blog in a post on 8 January that gave party members no prior notice and little more than 24 hours to back the move, on the grounds that entering a bigger political group would have expanded the M5S’ influence without compromising its non-aligned stance on EU affairs.

Grillo’s MEPs were not warned in advance, and one, Marco Affronte, walked out of the party and joined the EP’s Green group - the European Free Alliance. Another one, Marco Zanni, joined a group led by the French far-right National Front party.

“M5S voters seem unyielding [in their support], regardless of events surrounding the movement,” pollster Nando Pagnoncelli wrote in Saturday’s Corriere della Sera, however, presenting a survey by the Ipsos institute that gave the party a slight lead on the ruling centre-left Democrats (PD).

Some 30.9 percent of voters expressed a preference for the M5S, compared to 30.1 percent for the PD, Ipsos said. Adding to the M5S’ tally votes for the hard-right Northern League and the nationalist Brothers of Italy (FdI), overall support for parties advocating Italy’s exit from the Eurozone came in at just shy of 48 per cent.

“The establishment is far removed from the surrounding reality. Polls published yesterday show it: The Five Star Movement is on the ascendancy and is confirmed as the country’s biggest political force,” the M5S commented on its official mouthpiece, Grillo's blog.

Yet most commentators have ridiculed Grillo’s justifications, as well as his allergy to self-criticism.

Ezio Mauro, former editor of the centre-left (and often PD-aligned) La Repubblica newspaper, described the M5S as an unprincipled “sect” with no ideological anchorage, ruled by a “comedian-in-chief” who “speaks about democracy and practices theocracy.”

Professor Marco Tarchi of the University of Florence, author of a 2014 book called “Populist Italy: From the Common Man’s Front to Beppe Grillo,” agreed that the M5S’ leader has committed “a grave mistake, driven by the anxiety to soften [the party’s] anti-institutional profile and strengthen its credentials as a potential party of government.”

But speaking to EUobserver, Tarchi argued that the M5S’ remains popular by virtue of being the only alternative to mainstream, and largely discredited, political parties.

“It is hard to imagine that people who have voted for [Grillo], perhaps more than once, could switch to the PD or [former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s] Forza Italia because of some shortcoming or mistake [by the new party],” the professor said.

Fresh elections

Italian politics has entered a state of limbo following the 4 December referendum rejection of constitutional reforms sponsored by former premier Matteo Renzi, which triggered his resignation and the appointment of an interim government led by former foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Politicians are holding their breath for a Constitutional Court ruling, expected on 24 January, on the legality of voting rules for the lower house of parliament.

Once the verdict is in, parties will enter into complex negotiations to adopt a new election law, which president Sergio Mattarella wants adopted before dissolving parliament and calling for fresh elections.

Against this background, M5S bigwigs such as Alessandro Di Battista or Luigi Di Maio have appeared on TV to shrug off the Alde affair as a minor misstep, inflated by a supposedly hostile media happy to skirt over other issues such as rising unemployment or failing banks.

The argument may be working: the Ipsos poll found that only 45 per cent of people took an interest in the story, and as few as 35 per cent considered it damaging for the party.

“Did anyone ever care in Italy where the MEPs we elect sit in the European Parliament, or how they vote? Nobody ever gave a damn,” Marco Travaglio, a pro-M5S editor of the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper, said in a TV appearance on 12 January the La7 broadcaster.

“Next week our lives will go on exactly as before, just like they did after Grillo allied with Farage and people made it out as if he had become a Nazi.”

Focus

Grillo MEPs to join Farage group after referendum

Members of Italy's Five Star Movement Thursday voted to join forces in the EP with British eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage, in a controversial referendum in which members were offered limited choices.

Italy referendum spooks eurozone

Prime minister Matteo Renzi's resignation, followed by a crushing rejection of his reforms, has sent the euro plunging against the dollar and put the country's fragile banking system at risk.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary grants asylum to ex-Macedonia PM
  2. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  3. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  4. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  5. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  6. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  7. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  8. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Boycott threats mount on eve of Interpol election
  2. EU parliament to renege on transparency promises
  3. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  4. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  5. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  6. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  7. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  8. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us