Italy’s 5-Star backs Di Maio to carry on as leader after EU vote defeat

Di Maio still faces a daunting task to turn around the party’s fortunes

 Luigi Di Maio (32) called for the ballot after Five Star took just 17 per cent of the vote at Sunday’s European election.  Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters

Luigi Di Maio (32) called for the ballot after Five Star took just 17 per cent of the vote at Sunday’s European election. Photograph: Ciro de Luca/Reuters

 

Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement on Thursday resoundingly backed Luigi Di Maio to carry on as leader following a bruising defeat in European parliamentary elections.

Mr Di Maio got the backing of 80 per cent of the 56,127 Five Star members who voted on the party’s online platform known as Rousseau, the movement said on its blog.

Mr Di Maio (32) called for the ballot after Five Star took just 17 per cent of the vote at Sunday’s European election, half the tally of its coalition partner, the right-wing League, triggering internal attacks on his leadership.

The party takes many key decisions in online votes by its members and called the ballot “one of the most beautiful pages in the Five Star Movement’s history of direct democracy”.

Participation was the highest so far, it said. Members were required to answer yes or no to the simple question: “Do you confirm Luigi Di Maio as the political head of the Five Star Movement?”

The vote of confidence offers some respite for Mr Di Maio, but he faces a daunting task to turn around the party’s fortunes.

Promising tax cuts

Since Sunday’s election, League leader Matteo Salvini has been acting as if he were already prime minister, promising swingeing tax cuts and calling for changes to European Union budget rules.

Mr Salvini’s strategy appears to be to dictate the policy agenda, knowing that if Five Star bows to his demands it risks losing more support among its core voters. If it does not, that might trigger a coalition collapse and fresh elections which would be likely to reward Mr Salvini.

The Five Star Movement has steadily shed support since it won 33 per cent at the March 2018 general election, almost twice as much as its nearest rival, the centre-left Democratic Party, and agreed to form a government with the League.

In February, Mr Di Maio promised to reorganise Five Star at the national and local level, with a structure nearer to that of the traditional parties it has always decried. – Reuters