Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Italy’s Five Star Movement calls for protests against its own government

The move comes as former prime minister warns that the government could collapse

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio stepped down as leader of the Five Star Movement in January amid political turmoil. AP Photo
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio stepped down as leader of the Five Star Movement in January amid political turmoil. AP Photo

Luigi di Maio, the Italian Foreign Minister and former leader of the Five Star Movement (M5S), has called for protests this weekend against his own government.

The move adds to Italy's political turmoil after the former prime minister Matteo Renzi and his Italia Viva party boycotted a crucial cabinet meeting.

Mr di Maio on Friday said Italians should “peacefully demonstrate” in Rome on Saturday against a government that wants to “cancel out laws”.

Mr di Maio, who quit as leader of M5S in January amid party instability, claims that the coalition, which M5S is a part of, is planning to scrap universal basic income. He also claimed that the government is trying backtrack on a policy to reduce the pensions of former MPs.

M5S, founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, came first in the Italian national election in March 2018 with around a third of the vote. But that election ended in a hung parliament which saw the party join forces with Matteo Salvini’s far right League party, which has since seen a surge in support. M5S has been further hampered by losing half of its leaders since.

In August, Mr Salvini left his own government and called for a snap election, leaving M5S to form an uneasy coalition with the centrist Partito Democratico (PD).

PD leader Nicola Zingaretti called Saturday’s planned protests “a mistake” and invited the former M5S leader to “look to the future”.

The calls to demonstrate come after former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi warned that the government could collapse after his Italia Viva party boycotted a Cabinet meeting over a disputed justice reform.

Although opinion polls project Italia Viva for 4 per cent of the votes, the support of the party is vital in Italy’s upper-house Senate, where government’s majority is wafer thin.

On Thursday, the cabinet approved a justice reform that disbands trials if the verdict isn’t reached within an agreed limit.

Mr Renzi, who opposes the reform, challenged Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to put together a new coalition after he appealed for unity among the feuding ruling parties.

Francesco Galietti, co-founder and CEO of Policy Sonar, a Rome-based political consultancy, said that observers are evaluating how serious a threat Mr Renzi poses to the government and to the legislation.

“Needless to say, Renzi has a gigantic chip on the shoulder with PM Conte, who is not only at the pinnacle of the M5S PD entente, but also a competitor of Renzi's for centrist votes.

“So sooner or later there will be a Conte-Renzi face off. The justice reform is but the hook for it,” he said.

Updated: February 14, 2020 04:12 PM

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