Three Five Star Movement senators have defected to populist Matteo Salvini’s League as the leftist Five Star-Democratic Party government coalition continues to struggle.
The first senator to defect to the League (Lega) was Senator Ugo Grassi, who explained that he left the Five Star Movement (M5S) due to his severe disagreement with changing the European Union’s European Stability Mechanism (ESM), a move some have said could undermine Italy’s economy and sovereignty, Il Giornale reports.
Grassi added that he saw in Salvini and the League an opportunity to pursue “targeted investments for the development of the South.”
Matteo Salvini, who is a major critic of ESM reform, welcomed the defection, saying: “We welcome Senator Grassi. There are open doors for those who, with consistency, competence and seriousness, have positive ideas for Italy and are not under the thumb of the Democratic Party.”
“On reform and efficiency of justice and revival of Italian universities, we will work well with Senator Grassi,” he added.
Populist Salvini Alliance Routs Entrenched Leftist Governor in Historic Election Result https://t.co/VlZL93Lsfq
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Later in the day, senators Francesco Urraro and Stefano Lucidi also announced they would be leaving the M5S and joining Salvini.
“Today some Five Star senators joined, not because we offered or promised anyone but because they felt betrayed,” Salvini said, and attacked M5S leader Luigi Di Maio and founder Beppe Grillo.
“The problem of the M5S is the inconsistency of Grillo and Di Maio and not the coherence of someone who yesterday in the parliament said that within the programme with which he was elected it was written to cancel the ESM,” Salvini added.
The loss of three senators is a blow to the leftist government coalition, which is already unpopular with the vast majority of Italians — with only one in four saying they had confidence in the government in a recent poll.
Salvini, meanwhile, has enjoyed consistently high polling and has been rated to the most popular and trusted politician in Italy, ahead of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.