Members of Italy’s Five-Star Movement (M5S) on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of forming a government with the center-left, pulling the country back from the brink of snap elections.
Party leader and Italian Deputy Prime Minister Luigi di Maio said that about 80 percent of M5S members voted “yes” to backing a M5S-Democratic Party government led by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
“We should be proud of this digital platform ... because we offered a different method for creating a government,” Di Maio told journalists in Rome. “The political program is complete, now we move to the government composition.”
The vote was carried out on the movement’s Rousseau online platform, an exercise in the anti-establishment party’s much-vaunted “digital democracy.” Nearly 80,000 people voted.
The M5S and the Democratic Party had agreed to a 20-point government program, but that it would take 24 to 48 hours to present the new ministerial lineup to Italian President Sergio Mattarella for approval, Di Maio said.
M5S leaders on Tuesday launched an appeal for members to support the coalition, which is being thrashed out after far-right Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini pulled the plug on the previous government.
“This is a delicate moment for the country,” M5S said of what Italian media dubbed “Rousseau roulette.”
“For us, a mandate from citizens is a serious matter, it lasts five years, as laid out in the constitution, so that a government program can be carried out,” the M5S said in a blogpost.
The M5S joined an ill-fated coalition with Salvini’s League 18 months ago, but anti-migrant Salvini hoped for fresh elections that would make him prime minister when he tried to bring down the government last month.
Instead, the M5S is forming a new administration with its former foes from the Democratic Party.
“Italians found themselves in a crisis because of an irresponsible move by Matteo Salvini,” former ally Di Maio said on Tuesday after the vote result was announced.
“If you make a mistake, you apologize. How will he [Salvini] be able to complain about a government that he could have been part of?” Di Maio added.
Soon after the vote, Salvini said on Facebook: “We as the League are proud to stay out of this cattle market.”
A negative vote would have spelled the end of talks with the Democratic Party and prompted the snap elections sought by Salvini.
Di Maio has been criticized in the past several days for procrastinating on the deal, including by M5S cofounder and comic Beppe Grillo.
However, on Monday Di Maio agreed that he would no longer be deputy prime minister in the new government, provided no Democratic Party politician held the position either.
Instead, Di Maio has been mooted as a possible foreign minister.
“Now let’s go and change Italy,” Democratic Party leader Nicola Zingaretti said on Facebook after the vote.
The M5S’ foes have been quick to criticize the Rousseau system, which has previously been slammed as secretive and vulnerable to cyberattacks.
“This is an insult to Italians’ institutions, constitution and intelligence,” said Mariastella Gelmini of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.
The platform is managed by Davide Casaleggio, whose father Gianroberto founded the M5S along with Grillo.
Critics have said that the Casaleggio family has been pulling political strings from behind the scenes from the start.
Former Italian Constitutional Court judge Sabino Cassese wrote in the Corriere della Sera that it was paradoxical for about 60,000 people out of a potential 100,000 to be given the potential power of contradicting the 11 million Italians who voted for M5S in March last year.
“When will the M5S’ political leader stop playing with democracy?” Cassese wrote.
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