Italian foreign minister seeks ‘freedom’ in party rift

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced Friday that he has quit the steering committee of the Five Star Movement (M5S), the biggest party in parliament, saying "I want my freedom".

Italy's Foreign Affairs minister Luigi Di Maio
Italy's Foreign Affairs minister Luigi Di Maio has said he wants the freedom to speak out against Five Star Movement leader Giuseppe Conte.  Fred TANNEAU / AFP

He had chaired the committee which ensures the once anti-establishment party’s statutes are respected, and validates candidacies for national and local elections.

“In recent days the internal debate has degenerated. They started talking about splits, trials, pillorying. They tried to target and discredit my person,” Di Maio said in a Facebook post.

“I want the freedom to raise my hand and say what is wrong or what could be improved. We win and we lose together because we are a community based on pluralism of ideas, especially in this difficult moment for the Five Star Movement,” he added.

In particular the foreign minister wants the freedom to speak out against M5S leader and former premier Giuseppe Conte.

The two men have been at loggerheads in recent weeks over the presidential election, after the failure of the party’s candidate Elisabetta Bettoni, who had been proposed by Conte.

Incumbent President Sergio Mattarella gained re-election and was sworn in Thursday for a second term, after parliament begged him to stay on to stave off a looming political crisis.

READ ALSO: Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella sworn in for second term

Italian media commented at length on Di Maio’s loud applause in the Chamber of Deputies when Mattarella won an absolute majority for a new seven-year term.

The foreign minister had warned that the M5S leaders would have to answer to activists and he now wants a free hand to confront his internal opponent.

“I have decided to resign from the Guarantee Committee of the Five Star Movement,” wrote  Di Maio in a letter addressed to Conte.

Opinion polls suggest Di Maio could come out on top in the party struggle.

A series of four polls conducted after the presidential election at the end of January, showed the movement stagnating at 13-15 percent of the popular vote.

Conte is credited with only 36 percent of favourable opinions, compared to over 50 percent six months ago.

Meanwhile, Di Maio has received the support of several party deputies and activists on social networks.

Born in 2009, the M5S is an atypical movement in terms of its organisation and ideology, neither right nor left, and has built itself as an alternative to the “establishment” parties, but its transformation into a governing party is creating recurrent internal tensions.

READ ALSO: President Mattarella, the reluctant hero in Italy’s crisis

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Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.