Italian Populists Reject New Crony Government, Call for Elections

M5S Founder Beppe Grillo with Rome's Mayor, Virginia Raggi.
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Italy’s populist Five Star Movement (M5S) has rejected President Sergio Mattarella’s newly appointed government, calling for immediate general elections after the resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

By executive order, Mattarella chose to appoint a team of unelected officials from the same Democratic Party (PD) that the Italian citizens resoundingly ousted in a nationwide referendum ten days ago, giving rise to accusations of cronyism and partisan politics.

In what appeared a game of political musical chairs, the Italian President named former Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni (PD) to the post of Prime Minister, while elevating Angelino Alfano from Interior Minister to Foreign Minister. Domenico “Marco” Minniti meanwhile was raised from Undersecretary of State to replace Alfano as Interior Minister, and so on.

The M5S as well as the right-wing Northern League reacted strongly to the maneuver, demanding general elections to allow the people to determine who governs them.

Luigi Di Maio, a leader of M5S and Vice President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, called the new government an “enemy of meritocracy” as well as “an enemy of honest citizens.”

“They are digging the grave with their own hands. They will never give up and neither will we!” he said Tuesday.

Di Maio went on to accuse Paolo Gentiloni of “exporting bombs to Saudi Arabia” as Foreign Minister, while noting that the architect of the recently rejected Constitutional referendum, Maria Elena Boschi, had somehow been elevated to State Secretary of the Prime Minister.

Despite some signs of internal rifts, the M5S has continued gaining popularity, especially among the young, and has firmly taken position as the leading opposition party.

According to Vincenzo Scarpetta, a senior policy analyst at the Open Europe think tank, under current electoral rules M5S would have a decent chance of winning the next general election. Those rules are likely to change, however, under the current PD-controlled parliament.

“I think what has emboldened them so far is the economic situation,” Scarpetta said, while noting that M5S was clearly invigorated by the referendum result.

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