The 5-Star Movement (M5S) implodes once again, liquidating at a stroke the process of transformation into a stable party that was taking place in recent months. The co-founder of the anti-caste formation, the comedian Beppe Grillo, on Tuesday violently opposed the candidacy of the former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, to lead the new formation. After weeks of tensions and the ex premier had publicly asked for total autonomy to guide the new project, Grillo exploded against whoever was in charge of Italy in the toughest months of the pandemic and who now sought to refloat a party in crisis. The bridges are broken and, apparently, only two options remain: the formation of a new party led by Conte or the internal rebellion.
Giuseppe Conte called a massive press conference on Monday to explain the project to re-found the anti-caste movement in which he has embarked in recent months. After his hasty departure in February from the Chigi Palace to form the unity government led by Mario Draghi, the self-styled “people’s lawyer” had designed statutes to transform the M5S into a center-left, moderate and environmentalist formation. The problem, he pointed out, is that he did not want to remain tied to the whims of Beppe Grillo, self-constituted as the “guarantor” of the party. “I am not anyone’s front man,” he warned at the press conference. And the response of the comedian, founder of the party and a man with an explosive personality, has not been long in coming.
Grillo, unchained, broke all the bridges on Tuesday afternoon: “Conte cannot solve the problems of the Movement, he does not have the political vision or management capacity. I feel like this, as if I am surrounded by drug addicts who ask me for the pill that will make everyone believe that the problems have disappeared and that would give the illusion (perhaps for a few months) that we are stronger than we really are, thinking that Conte is the ideal person for it ”. “We cannot allow a movement born to defend direct and participatory democracy to become a one-man party governed by a 16th century statute,” he added.
The statute it refers to is the work Conte has done in the last four months. It is also, according to all the polls, the only lifeline of a movement in free fall since it won the March 2018 elections with 33% of the votes (today its strength is around 17% of the electoral estimate). Conte’s idea was to occupy a progressive and green space that no party has known how to capitalize until now in Italy. A proposal along the lines of the German Green Party that allowed it to form alliances with the Democratic Party and confront the solid right-wing bloc in the next elections.
Conte, in addition, had agreed to liquidate the opaque participation system through the so-called Rousseau platform – nobody ever knew how it worked and who the participants were – to use more transparent methods that would open the party to a more pluralistic militancy. This battle, which involved recovering the data of those registered, meant breaking with the son of one of the founders, Davide Casaleggio, and shelving the past. Grillo agreed and the plan was executed. But now the comedian, in a politically grotesque movement, has proposed to go back and recover the method of digital participation that he had bitterly denied. The founder wants to put to a vote again, and by the same channels as always, the name of the new members of the leadership of the movement.
The reality is that the M5S is now on the brink. Conte and Grillo will hardly be able to coexist and will have to look for different paths. The former prime minister has great influence among the grillinos and he could propose the founding of a new party, taking with him a majority of the parliamentarians, according to party sources. But the break would only hurt a low-hour formation that was just on the brink of re-founding. Also to the left-wing bloc that saw in the new formation that emerged from the hand of Conte a valuable ally against the right.