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POLITICS

Italy’s Five Star Movement votes to keep Luigi Di Maio as leader

Italy's anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) voted Thursday to keep leader Luigi Di Maio after the party's flop in European elections.

Italy's Five Star Movement votes to keep Luigi Di Maio as leader
Luigi Di Maio called - and won - a vote of confidence in himself. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Some 80 percent of those who voted on the M5S online platform said he should stay on, according to the M5S official blog.

The M5S rules in coalition with Matteo Salvini's hard-right League, which won a resounding victory in Italy on the back of an “Italians First” campaign, dealing a blow to the M5S and threatening the stability of the government.

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“You decide. I am asking to put my role as party leader to the vote,” Di Maio wrote on the blog as called the vote on Wednesday. “If the Movement renews its faith in me, we'll get to work… with even more commitment and dedication.”

Some 44,850 members voted to save Di Maio's job, compared to around 11,300 who wanted him gone.

The EU vote results confirmed the reversal of fortunes of the ruling parties, with M5S — which got 32.5 percent at the general election — taking just 17 percent on Sunday compared to the League's 34 percent.

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The M5S chief had been criticised by part of the Movement's base for taking on too much with his three roles as party head, deputy prime minister and economic development, labour and social policies minister.

Di Maio blamed the M5S's poor performance on low voter turnout, as well as a mud-slinging campaign by the League against which it was slow to retaliate.

He received a show of support on Wednesday from comedian Beppe Grillo, the M5S co-founder, who remains an influential figure within the Movement despite withdrawing from the political scene to focus on his stand-up career.

A new direction for Italy's Five Star Movement? Beppe Grillo distances himself from the party he founded
Beppe Grillo (L) and the party's new leader Luigi Di Maio with the Five Star Movement's new logo. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

“The Movement has suffered a defeat and must react,” he conceded on his website. However, he said he was “wounded” by those M5S members who were acting “as if it were a drop in the sales of a multinational company”.

“Luigi has not committed any crime, he is not involved in any scandal. He must carry on the fight,” Grillo said. 

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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