Can Grillo's party do more than just protest?

With Virginia Raggi and Chiara Appendino, two candidates of the Movimento Cinque Stelle will take over the city halls in Rome and Turin. Commentators take a close look at the protest party established by comedian Beppe Grillo and ask if it has what it takes to govern.

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Le Monde (FR) /

Choice of partner is decisive

After its election victories in Rome and Turin the movement - which according to its two new women mayors wants to govern for everyone and cooperate with everyone - must now decide on the direction it wants to take, Le Monde comments:

“Two paths are open to it. The first is cooperation with Renzi's PD, the second a tacit agreement with the Lega Nord, the disoriented leaders of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the far left, all united in their goal of toppling the prime minister during the referendum on reform of the Senate in October. The first path would allow the movement to display an image of unity and good will that could reassure the markets and Italy's partners. The second holds the promise of a chaotic future.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Victory of the naysayers

Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement will have to propose more than simply rejecting the establishment if it wants to play a constructive role in Italian politics, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung argues:

“The winner of Italy's local elections is Beppe Grillo. Barely visible in the campaigning, he has now risen to become the leader of the united naysayers. Ever since he first appeared on the political stage he's hardly said anything else. Although he has incessantly called for reforms, he has never helped to develop or implement any. ... Now Grillo's saying: 'This is just the beginning.' The beginning of what? That's something no one knows, no doubt himself included. His only promise is that 'everything' will change. That's not very concrete. In Rome and other cities he and his supporters have yet to prove that they can do more than just say no.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A sect-like movement

The Movimento Cinque Stelle (abbreviated to M5S in Italy) is a dubious organisation, the daily paper Der Standard warns:

“Among other things the sect-like structure of M5S raises questions. Raggi and Appendino, like all the other office-bearers of the protest movement, had to sign a contract with Grillo and his 'staff' in which they undertake to uphold the movement's goals and ideals; and if they fail to they face either a fine of 150,000 euros or expulsion proceedings. Moreover the two mayors must present all 'important decisions' to the 'staff' for approval. If Raggi and Appendino don't produce good results quickly not only their political opponents but also the citizens of Italy will start asking how independent their municipal leaders really are.”

ABC (ES) /

Following in the footsteps of Spain's Podemos party

Italy's President Matteo Renzi should look for guidance to Spain and the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona, Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, who govern with the support of the left-wing alliance Podemos, the conservative daily ABC advises:

“Spain's experiences should serve as a warning [to Renzi] because municipal politics has turned out to be an effective platform for the propaganda of populist movements, especially when they receive generous - and suicidal - support from a party like the Socialist PSOE. However, Raggi is not the Roman equivalent of Carmena or Colau. Raggi's tirades against the right and left, which fit in so nicely with the 'anti-caste' discourse, situate her in a post-ideological populism that, because of its lack of definition, can accommodate extremisms of all stripes which have nothing more in common than their rejection of the system.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A revolt against the centre-left aristocracy

Prime Minister Renzi's PS only has itself to blame for its defeat, the liberal daily La Stampa observes:

“The election results from Rome and Turin testify to a revolution - a revolt against the old regime which Renzi, who had set himself the task of destroying it, now embodies. This revolt is led by a new third class. It is composed of those social classes that have been weakened by the crisis and excluded from government by the centre-left aristocracy. For the first time in history the anger of the people of Rome and Turin is being expressed in the total rejection of anyone who has a solid political track record. … The loathing of professional politicians is so deeply rooted that the inexperience of the two Five-Star ladies [Virginia Raggi in Rome and Chiara Appendino in Turin] is considered a merit. Just like in a mutiny when the crew hands over command of the ship not to the second in command but to the cabin boy.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A resounding blow for Renzi

All hope that Renzi would be able to lead his PD out of the crisis is lost, writes the liberal-conservative daily Corriere della Sera:

“The defeat of the ruling centre-left party points to a problem with the system, because the alternative that is emerging bears the profile of Beppe Grillo. The danger now is that it will provoke fear and exhaustion in the government which the party leadership must combat also mentally. Right now there is no sign of a new majority that can replace the current one and rule Italy. But yesterday was a turning point that destroyed all illusions. … The blow hits Renzi the hardest because it has destroyed his narrative of optimism. The elections should have made him, head of government for two and a half year now, the leading force that managed to reform the centre-left and give it a central role in politics.”

Financial Times (GB) /

Populism no good against Grillo's party

Instead of passing populist tax relief measures Renzi should focus on his original agenda, the Financial Times advises:

“For some of his supporters, the prime minister has also proved disappointingly inconsistent on the question of reform. . … When the local elections are completed in two weeks’ time, Mr Renzi needs to seize back the initiative. He should resist the temptation of trying to outmanoeuvre Mr Grillo by offering more doses of populism. Instead, he ought to stick to his reform programme in the hope that it can deliver improved economic growth before the general election is held in 2018. Holding to such a course will not be easy. But it is the only way that Mr Renzi can guarantee that his government truly changes Italy.”

La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Renzi's star could fade fast

The poor showing of the Partito Democratico in Italy's mayoral elections may be a sign that Renzi's power is waning, La Tribune de Genève comments:

“At just 41, the young prime minister who came to power in February 2014 through a veritable party coup wanted to push through his policies without delays, breaking with traditional practices and destabilising established equilibria. But although he has chalked up unquestionable successes - notably by passing a labour law that would have François Hollande green with envy - Renzi has by no means delivered on all his promises. As a result the star of the young reform politician who's promised a bright future could rapidly fade. It's no doubt for this reason that - in best poker fashion - Matteo Renzi has already announced that he'll resign if his constitutional reform is rejected in a referendum slated for October.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Left only voting for social democrats out of tradition

Renzi hasn't managed to truly strike a chord with Italy's social democratic voters, La Repubblica points out:

“The tired body of the party went to the polls and mobilised the rest of the apparatus: the interest groups gathered around the candidates and the section of the public that doesn't just want to stand by and watch the politicians and that still believes in the tradition of the Italian left, following it through all its processes of change. This section is driven more by a sense of belonging to a story rather than by current events. It believes it must campaign for the values that have made European and Western culture what it is for us. But the party's soul stayed at home, and it will be difficult to reconnect with it.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A new chapter in Italian politics

Renzi has every reason to fear a protest movement, Der Standard believes:

“Now that the political establishment is being punished everywhere else, why not in Rome too? That must have been what was going through the minds of many voters when they ticked the box across from Virginia Raggi, the candidate of comedian Beppe Grillo's protest party, and gave her a clear majority for the runoff vote in two weeks' time. ... But even if she doesn't win, the power-conscious PM Matteo Renzi will have less to fear from the right - Forza Italia and Lega Nord are not even within striking distance -, and more from a protest movement that never wanted to be part of the government in the first place. In Italy, as elsewhere, politics is being written anew.”