As Five Star Party Risks Implosion, Italy Fears the Fallout

As Five Star Party Risks Implosion, Italy Fears the Fallout


Rebellions are breaking out all over the place. In December, members of Parliament refused to pay their dues into a party fund, prompting the party to threaten more expulsions. A couple days later, Davide Casaleggio, the son of the party’s co-founder, defended himself against accusations that he used the party’s digital platform, upon which internal votes are cast, for personal profit.

Critics have long made such allegations, but now some party members are raising concerns as well.

Five Star has called for a general assembly in March to sort out its problems, some of which were raised in a “manifesto” circulated this month among party members. (“First problem, political direction.”) But the letter also aired concerns about the workload of Luigi Di Maio, the party’s political leader and Italy’s foreign minister.

“All his attention should be focused on foreign policy,” said Emanuele Dessì, a parliament member with Five Star and co-author of the manifesto.

Five Star has long maintained an ambiguous foreign policy. It started out critical of Vladimir Putin’s Russia for human rights abuses. Then in recent years, it drew close to Russia, opposing sanctions imposed for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The party’s positions on the euro and the European Union have been all over the place.

Mr. Di Maio, previously known for lending support to France’s Yellow Vest protesters and gaffes such as calling Chinese President Xi Jinping “President Ping” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “Secretary Ross,” is in a difficult position. He and his government must articulate a policy on the Libyan civil war as Italy’s own interests in the area are in flux. The reviews haven’t been kind. “Diplomatic Flop,” the newspapers read.

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Mr. Di Maio’s focus has often been on internal politics, especially on what he has called back-stabbing.

“Of this, I’m a little tired, but I’m not tired of the movement,” Mr. Di Maio said on the Tuesday night program. “So whoever hopes that I’ll get tired of the movement has made a mistake.”



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