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Election campaign in Italy: The “Five Stars” reinvent themselves

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Formerly against everyone and everything, then at the head of a right-wing government – and now suddenly left-wing populist: Italy’s “Five Stars” have repositioned themselves in the election campaign. Are the voters coming along?

By Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Studio Rome

They were already written off as the party that experienced the fastest rise in Italy, but also the steepest fall. The “Five Stars”, by far the strongest political force in Italy in the last parliamentary elections, seemed on the way to insignificance.

In the election campaign, the seats were full again, especially in the poorer south of Italy, when Giuseppe Conte promised that the “Five Stars” would, for example, defend the controversial citizen’s income that she had introduced.

Leaving no one behind, that’s the policy of the party, Conte is close to the people, and immediately follows: “Those who have no vote, who have never counted, count for us even more than the others, those who are always privileged. ” That’s why it could “never happen” with his party that the citizens’ income would be smashed – the “Five Stars” would oppose this with all their might.

Conte like no one knew

Former Prime Minister Conte has been at the top of the “Five Stars” for about a year. Three years ago he was leading a government with the right-wing Lega, at the beginning of the Corona crisis he was celebrated as a solid statesman.

Now Conte has reinvented himself as a left-wing populist campaigner. He was celebrated with chants at his party’s central campaign event.

Suddenly clearly located

As an anti-establishment party, the “Five Star” movement used to attach importance to being neither left nor right. In its current, clearly left-wing program, it promises the introduction of a minimum wage, a radical ecological change and less money for armaments in addition to the expansion of citizen income.

During the election campaign, Conte called out to his supporters Being on the right side also means “being against everything and against everyone. And I know that doesn’t scare you.”

The “Five Stars” were attacked for having been on the “right side” “many times”. And Conte has an example ready: “We were the only political force that opposed the madness of rearmament.”

The government fell – and profited from it

In the Draghi government, the “Five Stars” rejected higher arms spending and said no to further arms deliveries to Ukraine. The Conte party initiated the overthrow of Draghi by saying no to a new waste incineration plant to combat the ongoing waste crisis in the capital Rome.

The Draghi fall and the left turn only temporarily harmed the “Five Stars”. In the election campaign, it is growing like no other party. Only slipping below five percent, the Conte party climbed to 12 to 13 percent in the last polls, which were allowed to be published two weeks before the election, and the trend is rising.

Before parliamentary elections in Italy: polls see right-wing alliance ahead

Anja Miller, ARD Rome, daily news at 8:00 p.m., September 23, 2022

That is still a long way from the more than 30 percent of the last parliamentary election. And yet, says politics professor Lorenzo De Sio from the Luiss University in Rome, this is a remarkable development. This is primarily due to one issue – the citizen’s income. This is very important in southern Italy, emphasizes De Sio, referring to his own data. And that’s why it’s no coincidence that the growing approval for the “five stars” is mainly due to a strong increase in the south.

No agreement on left alliance

The “Five Stars” are going into the elections on Sunday as advocates for the socially disadvantaged, this time positioned clearly on the left by Enrico Letta’s Democratic Party.

An alliance between the two parties did not come about, which drastically reduces the chances of success for both in the election campaign – a third of the parliamentary seats in Italy are allocated according to a first-past-the-post system, similar to that in Great Britain.

Politics and politics professor De Sio believes that the “five stars” in southern Italy can at least achieve respectable success, even if that is unlikely to be decisive for the election. But he could at least make the victory of the legal alliance around Giorgia Meloni, which was expected nationwide, a little smaller.

Election Italy: The Five Star Movement – from high-flyer to phoenix

Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Rome, September 20, 2022 2:50 p.m