Italy’s Five Star Movement takes control of former mafia town Ostia

Italy's populist Five Star Movement has won a local election in Ostia, a seaside suburb of Rome once ruled by organized crime.

Italy’s Five Star Movement takes control of former mafia town Ostia
A view of Ostia Lido. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The vote was the first in Ostia since police dissolved the district’s government two years ago due to its infiltration by the mafia, the first time such a step had been taken in Rome. It was also closely watched as a barometer of public sentiment ahead of a national election that must be held next spring.

A first round of voting on November 5th left the Five Star Movement going head to head with the centre-right coalition Brothers of Italy, with the ruling Democratic Party failing to make the run-off.

The Five Star Movement won just under 60 percent in the second round on Sunday, making its candidate Giuliana Di Pillo the new president of Ostia’s council with 15 of her party colleagues sitting alongside her.

Writing on her Facebook page after the victory, Di Pillo said: “It's a victory of honest citizens, who have retaken the local government and who want to rebuild from the rubble”.

Pictured: Giuliana Di Pillo celebrating with party colleagues. “Now the 10th district can really start again; from today we will roll up our sleeves to reclean the culture with legality and transparency, we will work to repay the trust of all the citizens.”

“It's evident that there's been a Five Star Movement effect and a Raggi effect,” she continued, referring to Rome's Five Star mayor Virginia Raggi, who triumphed in elections in the capital last June. “The voters understood that the Five Star Movement is the only political force that has never governed this region and we will work to pay back their trust.”

There will also be nine opposition councillors, including one from the neo-fascist CasaPound party, which has been accused of ties to Ostia’s organized crime families.

Two days after the first-round vote, a member of the notorious Spada clan was filmed headbutting a TV journalist as he sought to question the mobster about his alleged support for CasaPound.

Roberto Spada, the brother of boss Carmine Spada, was arrested for the attack, which left Rai2 journalist Daniele Piervincenzi with a broken nose.

The incident turned an international spotlight on Ostia, where journalists and residents protested in defence of freedom of speech.

READ ALSO: Press freedom in Italy: Six key things to know

Mayor Raggi condemned the attack and pledged to crack down on crime.

Turnout for Ostia's second-round vote was low, at less than 34 percent.

But the result is still good news for the populist Five Star, which also doubled its share of the vote in a regional election in Sicily earlier this month.

The party's founder Beppe Grillo said at the time: “The adventure has only just begun.”

ANALYSIS: There's an election in Italy next year – and the M5S has some familiar problems


Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.