‘Grillini’ crumbles to stardust: Luigi di Maio blames Ukrainian politics – what’s the real reason?
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio resigns from the Five Star protest movement, triggering a mass exodus. What will become of the idea of humorist Beppe Grillo.
With “the ambiguous attitude of certain leaders of the Five Star Movement” towards arms deliveries to Ukraine, Italy had been undermined, Di Maio justified his resignation from the protest movement on Tuesday evening. He called it “irresponsible” to question government policy and unity in such a dire situation. The 35-year-old foreign minister stressed:
“This war is not a media spectacle, it is real and its victims are real. In the face of brutality, you have to decide which side of history you want to be on.”
Di Maio was mainly targeting the leader of the Five Star party, ex-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. He had repeatedly called for no more arms to be delivered to Ukraine and for intensified diplomatic peace efforts.
This attitude is quite popular in Italy – but it contradicts the line of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, which Di Maio also supports.
Di Maio does not want to wait for the term guillotine to fall
The row with Conte over arms deliveries was probably just a welcome excuse for Di Maio to leave the five-star hotel. The real reason for leaving the party is the statutes of the protest movement, which limit the duration of the mandate to a maximum of two legislatures. For Di Maio, the settlement would have meant he would no longer be able to stand as a candidate in the upcoming spring 2023 legislative elections.
The former sandwich seller at the Naples football stadium would therefore have been forced to look for another job in just a few months.
The existential fears that term limits arouse among many five-star parliamentarians are also reflected in the fact that, along with Di Maio, more than 60 other deputies and senators have resigned from the protest movement – most of them, like the Minister of Foreign Affairs, are also in their second term.
It looked like a mass exodus – and the split within the party means the protest movement founded by comedian Beppe Grillo is no longer the strongest ruling party, but rather Matteo Salvini’s right-wing populist Lega.
The example shows how well the “Grillini” have established themselves
The two-term limit is the very essence of the hallmark of the anti-system party: it serves to differentiate it from the hated “caste”, that is, the professional politicians of the traditional parties, whom the “Grillini” accuse of parasitism at the expense of taxpayers.
The term limit is combined with a requirement for five-star incumbents to give up half of their lavish politician salaries and donate them to charity. Many “Grillini” have since forgotten or deleted this promise: more than a hundred of their parliamentarians are behind in the partial reimbursement of their salaries or have simply stopped them.
Many former rebels have themselves become a caste. The protest movement, which has become the most powerful political force in the country with 34% of the vote in the 2018 legislative elections, has meanwhile lost almost all credibility with voters and hardly plays a role in the elections anymore. With the party split, the “Grillini” should finally crumble into stardust.