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MNI SOURCES: Italy's 5-Star May Move To Shared Leadership
By Silvia Marchetti
ROME(MNI) - Italy's populist Five-Star Movement might switch to a shared
leadership structure in a bid to heal internal divisions and avoid a split that
could destabilise the country's coalition government, party sources told MNI.
The resignation of previous leader Luigi Di Maio on Wednesday, after a
string of defections during a bitter dispute over the party's future, cast
further doubt on the durability of the coalition with the centre-left Democratic
Party, which already faces a key trial in regional elections this weekend.
While party official Vito Crimi has taken over as interim leader, Five-Star
is set to choose a more permanent replacement for Di Miao at a party conference
in March. Media have cited potential future leaders including Prime Minister
Giuseppe Conti and Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli, but sources said it
might be that no single candidate is capable of closing the breach between the
party's different factions. While some members want the party to hold the line
on policies including tougher jail sentences for criminals, others want it to
compromise and move closer to the Democrats.
"There is a chance the conference might propose a collegial body that takes
decisions, instead of having one man at the helm as with Di Maio, but the
Movement's original ideology will not be questioned nor our role in this
government," said one party source. "Our overall stance will remain the same,
but there might be more open debate, and a welcome for different views."
Not all shared this confident view, doubting that the shared leadership
proposal would resolve the party's problems.
"We're at a turning point, meaning: where are we heading? It's a bit
chaotic, I really don't know what to think," said another party official.
Even hard-liners within Five-Star want the governing coalition to survive,
for fear of punishment from voters should a government collapse trigger
elections. Support for the party has slumped to 16% in opinion polls from 32% in
2018 when it came to power, forming a coalition with the far-right League which
fell apart in August. Five-Star have also lost 33 parliamentarians, either to
defections, or as a result of disagreements with the leadership, or to
expulsions for misbehaviour.
The League is now well ahead in polls.
Five-Star's coalition partners in the Democratic Party and the smaller
Italia Viva party led by former premier Matteo Renzi are watching the drama with
bated breath. An Italia Viva source called for the Five-Stars to find a
compromise, even if it involves handing power to the party's hardliners, to
quell a dispute which might otherwise endanger the government itself. Democratic
sources told MNI they feared the movement's internal disagreements could slow
the work of government and legislation, although one said the coalition might
actually begin to function better if the different Five-Star factions reach a
"If a collegial Five-Star leadership leads to efficient, speedy decisions
that can benefit the government, that's good. But if it just opens the way to
more arguments, that's bad," one Democrat said.
The most likely outcome for Five-Star was a continuation of the course set
by Di Maio, another centre-left party member told MNI.
Before addressing the issue of leadership, the Five-Star conference will
first deal with policies and priorities for the ruling coalition. One area of
agreement, cutting across party sectors, is opposition to a planned overhaul of
the eurozone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism. The ESM revamp,
key to efforts to bolster the currency bloc's financial architecture and which
must be ratified in national parliaments in order to go into effect, would
impose overly harsh conditions on financial assistance in a crisis, Five-Star
--MNI London Bureau; +44 203 865 3829; email: email@example.com
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