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Italy: Five Stars want yellow vests in their sleeve

The act IX of yellow vests scheduled Saturday will tell if the "Vaffanculo" Beppe Grillo has become a slogan alongside the most traditional "Macron resignation". The headquarters of the Five Stars Movement (M5S) is in any case to seal a political alliance with the French protesters. Monday, Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Italian populists and vice-president of the Council, spectacularly supported by publishing an open letter in which he launched: "Yellow vests, do not weaken!" Another parliamentarian, former journalist Gianluigi Paragone, also posted a text on the M5S blog: "This embrace with yellow vests means we still want to contaminate and become infected."

In the immediate future, the prospect of a populist international has provoked an unprecedented crisis since 1945 in the relations between France and Italy. Never before has a government official allowed himself to support a street movement demanding the overthrow of the neighbor. This was recalled by the French Minister for European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau, who invited the Italian government to more respect – the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, had declared that he supported "Honest citizens protesting against a governing president against his people" – and invited the Transalpine Executive to "Sweep in front of his door". "What hypocrisies," immediately reacted Luigi Di Maio. "Maybe she does not remember President Macron when he compared us to leprosy," continued the young leader of the Five Stars.

"A few months ago, when Emmanuel Macron was politically fashionable, the Five Star Movement was courting the French head of state", points out the journalist Jacopo Iacoboni, author of the most thorough investigation into the origins of the M5S (1).

In November 2017, Luigi Di Maio had even written a public letter to "Dear Mr. President Macron" to praise him the possible convergences between On the march and his formation, and to assure him among others that the M5S "Deeply believes, like you, in a refoundation of Europe". On Monday, Luigi Di Maio changed his keyboard to write: "A new Europe is being born. That of yellow vests, that of movements and direct democracy. It's a tough battle we can lead together. "

"The Five Stars seek to put themselves in the wake of the most popular phenomenon, it's pure political marketing," considers Iacoboni, which nevertheless notes that "The Italian movement could subscribe to all the demands of the yellow vests, with the possible exception of questions concerning the environment", whose defense was one of the driving forces of emergence on the Five Star Peninsula. In December, Beppe Grillo had already underlined the programmatic convergences: "Yellow vests want in France what we want in Italy. […] They do not just talk about taxes, they claim the income of citizenship, a revaluation of pensions, that is to say the themes we have launched. But in the press we only talk about their opposition to taxes on gasoline, which are the only positive measures made by Macron. "

"Right and left"

What in any case accredit the thesis of an echo between the movement launched in 2007 by the former humorist and the current occupants of roundabouts French. Antisystems, eurosceptics, against the "caste" of banks, journalists and political parties, the Five Stars have built their dazzling success (32% of the vote in March and main strength of the current government Conte) by posing as the expression of the Italian people fighting against elites deemed corrupt. "Like yellow vests, they express a demand for direct democracy. Like them, they also have a posthéological dimension, taking up themes of right and left ", emphasizes the academic Massimiliano Panarari, author of One is not worth the other. Direct democracy and other myths of today (2).

Initially considered as leftist populists and abusively compared to the Spanish experience of Podemos, especially because they advocated the end of austerity and privatization of water, the economic decline or abandonment of major projects the Five Stars actually have no difficulty in picking up on some nationalist accents and governing with the extreme right, especially when it comes to fighting illegal immigration. "The yellow vests and the M5S represent the anger of the losers or those who feel they are the losers of globalization", sums up Massimiliano Panarari.

"The yellow vests are largely supported by the voters of the Five Stars and, to a lesser extent, by those of the League", confirms the political scientist Ilvo Diamanti, author with Marc Lazar of Peuplecratie (3). And this despite the images of violence from Paris flooding Italian TV channels. For Luigi Di Maio, the movement of yellow vests remains fundamentally "peaceful" and expresses the "shout" of the people against "European governments that only think about protecting the interests of elites and those with privileges. In Italy, we have managed to reverse this trend. "


To transform the anger of the French street into a political offer similar to that of the M5S, the Italian Deputy Prime Minister proposes to provide yellow vests platform Rousseau, computer structure of the movement managed very opaque by the company Casaleggio Associati , from the co-founder with M5S Beppe Grillo, Gianroberto Casaleggio (missing in 2016). "The platform makes it possible to structure the debates and to select the candidates. Thanks to online primaries, the most radical profiles could be ruled out. We are thus training with the most parliamentarians graduates, assured the Secretary of State and Head of Five Stars Manlio Di Stefano, who sees in the experiences on both sides of the Alps the same horizontal movement of "people from below", who mobilize through social networks.

"Today in Italy, no one, except the supporters of the Five Stars, disputes that the M5S has little horizontal, corrects Jacopo Iacoboni. In fact, the movement has been conceived, structured, oriented from the beginning by a private company, Casaleggio. This is one of the big differences with yellow vests, which so far have no vertical organization. " Neither spokesman, while the movement was historically propelled into the spotlight by Beppe Grillo before the comedian sets back to let the light to Luigi Di Maio. "For the moment yellow vests are acephalous", note Massimiliano Panarari.

"Both phenomena are the expression of the crisis of representative democracy and the affirmation of the democracy of the immediate, not only because social networks are today the place of political debate, but also because expresses the refusal of any mediation and intermediate bodies, says Ilvo Diamanti, who nevertheless sees a noticeable difference between yellow vests and Five Stars. The former express above all a malaise of socio-economic type and disillusionment with a change expected with the election of Macron, while the Five Stars are a more transversal movement in society and which has first developed on antipolitics. "

"Symbolic transfer"

Is it likely to prevent convergence between the two protests? "Today there is a mirror game between France and Italy", considers Ilvo Diamanti, who nevertheless considers "We must wait to see if the yellow vests will seek to structure their movement," and "The opening of Luigi Di Maio in their direction is above all tactical".

Today, under pressure from the League, his government ally challenged by a fringe of his constituents who accuse him of abandoning some symbolic battles, particularly in the environmental field, the M5S would seek to revive by dyeing yellow. "In the test of power, they try to redo virginity and find a radical, Massimiliano Panarari slice. Support for yellow vests is a symbolic transfer. " The initiative also allows Luigi Di Maio to seek a political interlocutor on the international level to a few months of the European while in the great game of cross-border alliances, the Five Stars are isolated.

Still, for the moment, Jacline Mouraud, one of the figures of yellow vests, has swept away any idea of ​​rapprochement: "How can Luigi Di Maio support rioters seeking to sabotage order and democracy in France?" she told the Italian press. As for the two yellow vests of Caen, Véronique Rouillé and Yvan Yonnet, who will be in Rome this weekend at the invitation of the "patriotic left", "They do not represent anything", She said.

"The support of Luigi Di Maio is very important," For his part, Eric Drouet, figure of yellow vests, said he would be ready to come to the Italian capital to meet the boss of the Five Stars. Thursday, however, he has, on the contrary, said on Facebook "refuse" any political help, "Wherever she comes from" Meanwhile, part of the Italian opposition had ironized about the latest security law approved by the majority. It provides that any person blocking traffic, on a roundabout or any portion of road, is liable to six years imprisonment.

(1) The Esperimento, ed. Laterza, 2018.
(2) Uno no vale uno. Democrazia diretta and altri miti of oggi, ed. Marsilio, 2018.
(3) Peuplecratie. The metamorphosis of our democracy, ed. Gallimard, April 2019.

Eric Jozsef correspondent in Rome



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