Anti-establishment Five Star Movement wins in Rome, inflicts ‘historical defeat’ on PM Renzi

Rome's newly elected mayor Virginia Raggi © Remo Casilli
The Five Star Movement are opponents of mainstream politics in Italy, which has been destroying the economy and society, but at the same time they strongly lack internal democracy, said Lorenzo Zamponi, a political scientist.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement won two mayoral races – in Rome and Turin, overtaking the Democratic Party. Virginia Raggi, 37, became the first female mayor in the history of Rome. Her victory could become a serious threat to Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's government.

RT: Do you see it as a historical defeat? 

LZ: Well, it is a historical defeat; it is the first misstep in some way, a midterm exam for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. I think it could lead to the fact that in the next general election in 2018 the Five Star Movement will be a serious contender also for a national majority in parliament.

RT: Italy is going to hold a constitutional reform referendum later in the year. Do you think it’s going to be about amendments to the country’s constitution or more about Renzi’s policies? 

LZ: Yes, because it will show a point of weakness in Renzi’s narrative, in Renzi’s trajectory and definitely all of his opponents inside and outside the party will have the chance to attack him in a referendum. So yes, it will be more a referendum on him than on a referendum on the constitutional reform. 

RT: How important is the victory of the Five Star Movement? 

LZ: It is very important mainly because the failure of the last few mayors of Rome have become a symbol of the failure of politics. The disappointment of Roman citizens is in some way a good example of the disappointment toward politics of the whole Italian population. Definitely the fact that Five Star Movement could win in Rome is the sign that they are the hope. They are probably the last remaining hope for a significant percentage of the Italian population. 

Italians in general and Romans in particular are disappointed with politicians and politics. And definitely the fact that [Raggi] looks different, that she comes from the outside, is a good advantage for her.  Also, Beppe Grillo, the leader of the Five Star Movement, has been almost invisible in the last few weeks. She has been able to give this fresh look to the campaign [and it] definitely has proven an advantage to her.

© Stefano Rellandini

RT: Do you see the Five Star Movement as strong opponents to the current government? 

LZ: They are opponents to mainstream politics; to the implementation of austerity policies that have been destroying the Italian economy and society in the last few years, as has happened in other Southern European countries. On the other hand, they are quite confused from an ideological point of view, and they have been strongly criticized – and rightly so – for the lack of internal democracy and the fact that they are strongly controlled by the leader, Beppe Grillo. They can play the role of the alternative. I am not sure that they will be an effective alternative in the sense of policies.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.