Italy’s M5S party leader promises to expel ‘bad apples’ before election | World news


Italian media claim M5S lawmakers have breached internal rules on salaries

Luigi di Maio






Luigi di Maio, the leader of M5S, says he will root out ‘bad apples’ in the party.
Photograph: Paola Visone/Rex/Shutterstock

Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) has been rocked by charges of hypocrisy and dishonesty after it emerged that some lawmakers – who pride themselves on the party’s hard line against corruption – have failed to abide by an internal policy relating to pay and expenses.

Luigi di Maio, the leader of M5S, promised to root out any “bad apples” and expel them after it was revealed that some lawmakers have failed to live up to a party pledge related to their salaries. The country goes to the polls for the general election on 4 March.

The rule in question states that officials have to voluntarily pay back a portion of their salaries to a fund that supports small business owners. The rule – one of the fairly strict dictums imposed by the party – reflects M5S’s view that politicians are overpaid at the expense of Italian taxpayers.

Political scandals in Italy – like anywhere – are fairly routine. But M5S has appealed to voters in large part for their outspoken views on transparency and accountability.

Citing unnamed sources, Italian media reports have suggested that as much as €1m (£890,000) has not been reimbursed by lawmakers. On Monday, one senator, Maurizio Buccarella, suspended himself after acknowledging that he had not transferred his salary as promised.

M5S, a populist, anti-establishment party that was co-founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo, is Italy’s most popular single party heading into the March election, according to polls, followed by the Democratic party led by Matteo Renzi. But M5S lags behind a centre-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, which includes two far-right parties, Northern League and Brothers of Italy.

Di Maio sought this week to differentiate M5S from other political parties, saying that any MPs, MEPs or local councillors who were found to have broken the party’s internal rules on reimbursements would lose the backing of the party ahead of the March election.

Matteo Renzi



The Democratic party leader, Matteo Renzi: ‘I hope for the Five Star that 4th March comes quickly.’ Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

News of the breach was first reported by television programme Le Iene, which reported that two politicians – Andrea Cecconi and Carlo Martelli – had failed to donate a combined €100,000 (£89,000) in salary, as promised.

The news was met with schadenfreude from M5S’s political rivals. Renzi, a former prime minister, told reporters at Stampa Estera on Tuesday that he was reminded of how hard-hitting M5S was every time anyone in his own Democratic party had received a “notice of investigation”.

“For me, a notice of investigation means nothing unless a charge is brought,” Renzi said. “So whenever I think back on that period of insults, I remind myself of the investigations against the mayors of the towns they led: Rome’s mayor was probed for forgery, Turin’s mayor is being probed for manslaughter, causing injury and forgery, Livorno’s for manslaughter and Bagheria’s for collusive tendering.

“Now [with this latest scandal] Di Maio will be expelling someone [from the party] every day. I hope for the Five Star that 4 March comes quickly, as every day there is something or another.”

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