The war in Ukraine and the discrepancy over the shipment of weapons was only the pretext for the split. It was the scenario on which Luigi Di Maio, former leader of the 5 Star Movement, decided to start designing a new political scheme with an eye on the next legislature. The current foreign minister broke his ties on Tuesday with the party with which he promised to storm Rome’s palaces and won Italy’s last election. It was another time. The young politician, 35, publicly denounced that night that the crickets they maintain a line contrary to the values of NATO and the European Union. And then he took with him 60 parliamentarians: a third of the total. The decision deals a mortal blow to the M5S. But it also changes the balance of forces in Parliament and in the unity government chaired by Mario Draghi. The tectonic plates of Italian politics have begun to move to prepare the ground for the next elections, scheduled for next spring.
The violent move modifies the Italian political scheme completely. The M5S, led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, is no longer the majority party in the unity government chaired by Mario Draghi (it has been surpassed by the far-right League, the Democratic Party and Berlusconi’s Forza Italia). He has lost weight and substance. Also the two capitals where he ruled: Rome and Turin. The formation, founded 12 years ago by the comedian Beppe Grillo as a popular response to Berlusconism, the establishment political and economic and corruption, is no longer anything of all that. Conte has transformed it into a small, moderate center-left party. But it does not even seem now a great ally for social democracy in the future, as the general secretary of the Democratic Party (PD), Enrico Letta, had planned.
Things have changed a lot and maybe too fast. And Di Maio, who according to the rules of the M5S would not have been able to repeat as a candidate in that formation, now looks towards the center with Together for the future, his new artifact. A space where a group of currents begins to be built that aspires to conquer an orphan vote since the dissolution of the old Christian Democracy. Roberto D’Alimonte, a politician and polling expert, believes that this ideological world is without an owner in Italy. But it will be difficult for the new formations that are being born to manage it. “There is a demand and a space to conquer, but there is no credible supply. There are too many little parties, with different personalities and, above all, with the sole political ambition of survival”, he points out. “Di Maio has made a desperate move. He had no future in the M5S. And neither did all the most faithful of him. But I don’t think he will have a great electoral success. My forecast is that from the electoral point of view he will not exceed 3%”, he points out.
Di Maio said goodbye to the M5S on Tuesday with an extravagant press conference where he proclaimed “the end of hypocrisy.” the former leader cricket, however, has defended in the same legislature a government with the extreme right and with the left; he has attacked the European Union and, at the same time, has been a gladiator of its values. He also asked for a impeachment for the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, but later became his greatest supporter when it was time to re-elect him. Di Maio, a guy with no studies or work history, built his career on the slogan “one is worth one”, the populist maxim that any citizen could access politics against the premises of the supposed caste. But on Tuesday he defended that not everyone is qualified to fill certain positions. In international politics, he flirted with Russia and China, but now talks about being on the good side of history with the Ukrainians. And, above all, he proclaimed the assault on the palaces of power, but when the strict rules of his party indicate that he finished his mandate, he is reluctant to abandon them.
The ice and the distance created between Di Maio and Conte – they were president and vice president of the first government of the legislature with Matteo Salvini’s League – has nothing to do with Ukraine, as he maintained on Tuesday. Sources from the Chigi palace explain to EL PAÍS that Draghi learned of Di Maio’s plans on Tuesday morning. But the relationships had been broken for months, says the environment of both. Probably since the election of the President of the Republic last February. Sergio Battelli, a historic member of the formation and one of the 60 parliamentarians who will accompany Di Maio in the new project, believes that “there has been a process these months in which Conte’s appointments and a structure created strictly by him and for him made it very difficult.” “The vision of him within the M5S is imposed. The fact that he was voted with 95% should not mean that. During this time he did nothing to approach the most doubtful. And the point of no return was to use the war and foreign policy to make electoral politics. The campaign positions [en las elecciones administrativas de hace dos semanas] they were very drastic and did not help at all: it did not exceed 3%”, he points out.
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The M5S is badly damaged. Surveys, such as the one published by The stamp on Friday, they give him barely 11% of the votes (in the last elections he had 33%). The party has given so many lurches in recent years that it is difficult to know what they defend with Conte’s leadership. For Battelli, however, it had long since ceased to be what it was. “Today it is a restaurant with the M5S logo, but inside it is a different story. It has gone from a fish restaurant to a meat restaurant. Today is just Conte’s game.” The next elections may mark the end of an ideological cycle, where populism in Italy imposed its dizzying pace. The Salvini League is in free fall; Berlusconi has failed to regenerate Forza Italia; and the PD does not finish finding the key to recover its electorate. The strategists of almost all the parties are already looking for a new center of gravity while only one formation continues to grow: Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy.
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