When Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) came on to the Italian political scene a few years ago, massive hopes were placed in them to finally bring change to the Italian government. An inflated sense of hope similar to the hope placed in Barak Obama--the kind of hope one desperately lays on someone when they have nothing to look forward to and nothing else to loose (please read my 2013 post "The Italian Spring?" for background information on this group).
A lot of promises and demands were made, and they came so close... They did spectacularly well in the polls and had a chance to form a coalition government, with the possibility of affecting real change. But due to arrogant (and anti-democratic) leadership, they lost it. Beppe Grillo's totalitarian refusal to play politics sacrificed what little say the party had and confined themselves to the obscure. The five seats they had so valiantly and impressively won proved insufficient to affect change on their own. And it damaged their reputation in the eyes of the public as well.
Grillo is not a politician, nor did he ever claim to be. He even said repeatedly that he had no intention of entering parliament, that he just wanted to incite change. Well, that he did, and he was brilliant at it. Living in Grillo's home region of Liguria, I saw one of his fanatical rallies and as crazy of a lunatic as he was, he made sense. And the degree of corruption and ineffectiveness of the Italian government certainly warranted his crazed antics.
It was called the "Tsunami Tour" which swept the country accordingly. But a few years in, it seems that intead of laying waste to the establishment, it destroyed itself. Many believe that when Grillo succeeded in getting good candidates elected, he should have stepped down. His role was completed. Instead, he held on tight to his "baby" of a movement and became more crazed and determined to "send everyone home". He was completely black-listed by the media and all established professionals. Every news report slandered the man, and his "party". The brunt of the negative press was directed at Grillo, which was all the more reason to walk away and let his newbies carry on. These new MPs were smart, bright, seemingly honest, and had the support of the people. A few of them fought the strict no-negotiating rule because they realised that the moment to make real change was upon them. But they were quickly and publicly punished, not only being removed from their elected seat, but also ejected from the party. Possibly the most stupid move the M5S could have made.
There is something to be said for fighting the system and refusing to fall into the comfortable, well-paid abyss of the status-quo. But going into politics with a staunch rule of 'no politics' is a recipe for failure.
Nevertheless, we cannot forget the massive change the M5S brought to the political scene. The first political party in Italy to actually practice representative democracy, listening to the people in local meetups (using the Meet-Up website and mobile app) and bringing those issues before the senate. They placed income caps on all their politicians, in a country with obscene political salaries (among the highest in the world), and funding local projects with the excess salary.
There has been so much good from the M5S, but so much has been lost along the way. Can they continue to move forward and regain support after losing credibility? And will Grillo ever really let go of control? It's possible. Especially after the spectacular fall from grace that Renzi and the Partito Democratico (PD) had. Italy's "Golden boy" turned out to be a flash in the pan and proved that no one in government seems to be free from corruption. Another blow to the Italian people, who placed their hope in Renzi taking us all out of our current depths of despair.
When great hope is unfulfilled, it becomes great disappointment. Today, with a general election looming only two months away, the M5S is still a viable party, with several successful mayors across the country, a handful of MPs and Di Maio, their front-runner for Prime Minister. While Di Maio is young and charismatic, outside of his few years in the M5S, he has zero political experience. M5S has always prided itself on being 'outsiders' and not part of the corrupt establishment. And perhaps that is just what Italy needs to get out of gridlock of greedy, comfy politicians. But many previous M5S supporters do not take the party seriously anymore, and putting an inexperienced candidate as the party representative could prove to be disastrous.
On the other side of the aisle, however, what no one expected to see again...is the return of Berlusconi. And he is making all sorts of enticing (and totally improbable) promises! Interesting how in Italy the 'establishment' candidate is closer to Trump than the 'outsider' candidate. But that's a rabbit hole I won't dare to go down now....
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