Italy’s political and institutional crisis – occurring just as the worst economic recession in the Republic’s history has increased the percentage of the poor in the population to 15% – has raised the temperature of discontent. Giorgio Napolitano’s re-election to the Presidency of the Republic, after two months of political paralysis, is seen as the symbol of the failure of politics and of the “inciucio” (dubious deals) between left and right-wing parliamentary parties. The candidate put forward by the Five Star Movement, Stefano Rodotà, received strong popular support, especially among left-wing electors who saw the Democratic Party’s opposition to his election as a betrayal.
And while the left-wing parties (still dazed after the defeat in the elections) and radical left-wing forces (weak and uncertain in the current political chaos) seem to have missed the boat, discontent has looked to the Five Star Movement for guidance. But yesterday the Movement failed the street test.
The demonstration was first called for Saturday, after Grillo had accused the other parliamentary parties of a “coup”, but then it was put off to Sunday. The meeting place was a central square in Rome, much too small for the huge crowd that gathered to protest. Beppe Grillo, the M5S leader whose arrival in his trademark camper van was keenly anticipated, did not manage to get to the square and just gave a brief speech standing in the door of the car (a curious moment of deja-vu, as Berlusconi once gave a famous speech in just the same way) and then left.
After the leader’s departure, the M5S Members of Parliament and Senators who were present decided to go for a “walk” through the streets of Rome, “but not a demonstration, because it could degenerate,” as Grillo had remarked. The crowd, thousands of people, walked to the Colosseum, where Vito Crimi, the head of the Movement in the Senate, declared the demonstration to be at an end.
Roberta Lombardi, head of M5S in the Camera (the lower house) and prominent Roman member, said that they were not expecting such a huge crowd and admitted a lack of organisation. This is the latest in a long list of failures for Lombardi, which began the day after her election when she was attacked for her explicit sympathy with fascism, and her resignation seems close.
This event has shown clearly some of M5S’s many contradictions: between its ambition to be a mass party and its lack of organisation; between the incendiary statements and the real intentions of its leadership; between the institutional path it has chosen and the need for radical change which the Movement, in a confused way, represents. After Saturday, Wu Ming’s remark, just after the elections, that M5S was acting like a “firefighter” appears even more correct. This is a firefighter who seems to be afraid of the fire.
Dossier: Movimento 5 Stelle – Updated Version