Italian politics 2013 – Meet Mr. Grillo and M5S

They start a new party from scratch in 2009 and now they are the first party in the lower house of the Italian Parliament (and they got the third group for size at the Senate). Time to try to understand what means for Italy and for Europe the rise of “Movimento 5 Stelle” (M5S) and what they could do in the near future.

The story so far.

Mr. Giuseppe “Beppe” Grillo and Mr. Roberto Casaleggio are the prominent characters in this political “movement”. Both of them refuse to use traditional words like “party” for M5S, another way to remark any difference from all the other political subjects of the country. M5S starts from the meet-up groups, small aggregations of people who set up Net-based panels to discuss about political and environmental matters in 2009. The main goal was to  influence on local realities such as town administrations and/or how to debate about an array of different issues like green energy, pollution, use of public resources and so on. The meet-up groups find both a way to coordinate their actions and a powerful media amplificator in the blog of Mr. Grillo, one of the most visited and most followed blogs in the world. With the decisive actions of Mr. Casaleggio, who acts as a spin-doctor with his own firm, the initial stage of meet-up groups gave way to a more articulate subject, widely diffused thru Italy and more effective when it comes to politics. Between 2009 and 2012 the M5S evolved, gaining more and more consensus and winning seats at a number of local elections. Basically they are against traditional parties and refuse to be addressed as one; there is no common ideology, the main coordinates to understand them are ecology and distrust for the traditional pillars of power (banks, industry, lobbies, the Holy See, the EU). As of 2013 they become the main actor in the national politics.

Beppe Grillo

Beppe Grillo

The shadows inside M5S.

M5S lacks the basic structures of a party, there is almost no hierarchy at all. The main idea is that the instruments available thru the Web are more than enough to coordinate their efforts and to act as a platform to discuss the various matters that comes to attention. The  weight of Mr. Grillo is far more heavy than usual for a party chief and the role of Mr. Casaleggio, especially when it comes to decide some strategy, is not that clear ti the public. So we got a number of issues about internal democracy of M5S, due to people who’s been expelled from the ranks without any real choice to discuss with the founder (Mr. Grillo) or to appeal for their reasons with all the others. Rules of the house are not that clear too, often some member of the movement will find him/herself under the fire without warning. Another dark cloud comes into view when you approach some of the members of M5S in the social network arena; sometimes they plainly refuse to debate or argument the issues in a way that recalls the attitude of a religious group. It’s not clear how they use money too but it’s to be reminded that they use no public money at all (M5S is against all public measures to finance political parties).

Roberto Casaleggio

Roberto Casaleggio

Aftermath of general elections in 2013.

Without an absolute majority for any party or coalition in the Senate, the political weight of M5S is enormous. In the lower house there’s an absolute majority in the hands of “Partito Democratico” (PD) and its allies, a center-left coalition, that have the relative majority in the Senate. M5S is the most voted party in the lower house (see note below) so it’s quite clear that an alliance between PD and M5S will give a strong majority for the new government. The problem is in the attitude of M5S; they build up their consensus on the base of being different from any other party and more than often Mr. Grillo is quite dashing about the leader of Pd, Mr. Pierluigi Bersani. The role of Mr. Grillo is very peculiar; he’s not been elected, he got no official mandate to conduct any political give-and-take, he already stated in the previous months that he doesn’t want any public appointment at all. So, who’s in charge? A couple of weeks from now we will have the new Parliament in charge, every group got to name its speakers, presidents of Senate and the Lower House have to be elected and every party will have private talks with the president of the Republic, Mr. Giorgio Napolitano, about the perspectives of the next government. This two weeks are all the time that’s left to M5S to decide about the future and to every other party to understand if they want to try to build up another alliance for support the government to come.

My two eurocents about the future.

M5S and PD could gave birth to a short-term alliance, a year or so, in order to get some common goal and to put on the right path Italy for a while. That means political reforms, a new law about election rules, about a dozen of new laws and the keeping of run-of-the-mill matters.  In March is due the start of the new Parliament and between April and May the election of the new President of the Republic. There is no real alternative to this strange partnership, the whole concept of a big coalition between center-right and center-left is nothing short of a political suicide for the PD. Mr. Grillo will continue to brag about everything thru his blog and in the media, the financial advisors will learn to discriminate between his words and the actions of the government.


In Italy we have two different ballots to cast for national elections; any voter above 25 years of age could cast his/her vote for Senate and Lower House, under that age he/she can vote only for the Lower House. 

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