Gavin Jones –
The 5-Star Movement, senior partner in two coalitions since last year’s national election, is struggling with internal strife and falling support which threaten the survival of Italy’s two-month old government.
The antiestablishment party won 34 per cent in the March 2018 election, twice that of its nearest rival, but is now polling at half that level. Surveys show a downward trend that is fuelling party anxiety and dissent towards its leader, Luigi Di Maio.
Investors are becoming jittery. The spread between Italian benchmark government bonds and German Bunds, which had narrowed sharply after the government was formed, increased last week to its widest for three months.
Fourteen 5-Star lawmakers defied Di Maio last month by voting down a government plan to save a heavily polluting steel plant in southern Italy by granting legal immunity to its owners while they carried out a clean-up plan. Di Maio, who is Italy’s foreign minister, said last week that his internal critics who speak anonymously to the press were driven by personal ambition and should leave the party.
The lack of discipline in 5-Star’s ranks and a trickle of lawmaker defections are a danger to the government, which has only a thin majority in the upper house Senate.
5-Star’s problems are also hurting relations with its coalition partners – the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and small centrist and leftist groups – as Di Maio, 33, tries to dictate policy to regain support. The ensuing tensions undermine coalition cohesion and reduce support for all its parties.
“My baseline scenario is that the government will fall in the spring and there will be new elections,” said Francesco Galietti, head of political risk consultancy Policy Sonar. “The coalition’s only clear aim seems to be to keep the (main opposition) League out of power but that may not be enough to hold it together.”
5-Star steadily shed support in coalition with Matteo Salvini’s hard-right League and briefly recovered when Salvini brought down the government in August. The slide has now resumed in its partnership with the PD.
5-Star was founded 10 years ago by comedian Beppe Grillo as a grassroots protest movement against the corruption and cronyism of Italy’s political and business elite. It seems that for many voters it has lost its purpose since it became a part of that elite.
“My concern is that they are now on a very severe declining path,” said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of polling and political
analysis firm YouTrend. — Reuters