Government shaken by Five Star turmoil

Five Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio. Photo credit: La Repubblica

 ROME – Italy’s government was looking increasingly shaky as politicians of ruling-coalition party the Five Star Movement resigned, defected or were expelled from the party, political sources reported.

 The most high-profile Five Star resignation was the education minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti.  At Christmas, Fioramonti carried out his threat to resign if the 2020 budget did not include an increase of 3 billion euros for education spending.

 Three Five Star Movement senators defected to the right-wing League party in December and two members of the Camera dei Deputati left on Jan. 3.

 Five Star Movement senator Gianluigi Paragone was expelled from the party last week for voting against the government on the budget law.  He announced in a video he has no intention of joining the League and has challenged Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio to put his expulsion to Five Star members.  He may also challenge the expulsion legally, political sources said.

 Ipsos reports that the Five Star Movement’s popularity has fallen from 32.2 per cent of votes in the 2018 elections to 17.7 per cent in current voting intentions.

 Leading members of the Five Star Movement have issued a statement saying that Fioramonti should step down as an MP, political sources said.  In an interview Tuesday in La Repubblica, Fioramonti said “dissent is not admitted, there is no listening” in the Five Star Movement.  He said after resigning that the Five Star Movement had lost its values of transparency, internal democracy and environmental commitment – the environment has always been a particular focus of his.

 Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has appealed for unity and has said that the education minister would be replaced by two people – one for schools, and one for university.

 Fears of a split within the party, which would threaten the stability of the current government as well as Di Maio’s leadership, are growing.