Showdown between Grillo and Conte

During the week, the M5S wrote another chapter of its short but troubled political history.

The party is torn by the struggle for leadership between the guarantor and founder Beppe Grillo and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, who after Davide Casaleggio’s exit hoped to finally have a free hand in the management of the new movement. Except having to realize on his skin of would-be political chief that he has not come to terms yet with Grillo’s desire to remain central in the M5S.

The descent of the Genoese comedian to Rome in order to meet the 5-Stars parliamentary groups left behind a trail of rubble and pushed the M5S one step away from the precipice. The guarantor’s show in the Montecitorio group hall tore up Conte’s proposals, who just four months ago received from the founder himself the request to become the new political leader of the 5-Stars and to rewrite the statute.

At this point, Conte and Grillo appear divided on everything that can have an influence on the internal balance of power of the Movement. At stake are communication and two mandates rule, composition of the new secretariat, political line and symbol in view of the next elections. One imagines a diarchy, the other would like the monarchy instead.

From a systemic point of view, the big question is whether the M5S can exist without Grillo, while the power struggle between the two leading personalities of the Movement is symptomatic of the impossibility of advancing along a path of maturation capable of giving a bright future to the political force that only three years ago had become the (relative) majority of the country.

It is not the first time something like this has happened, but this time the result seems truly incontrovertible. In recent years, the Movement has gone from a catch-all party, able to attract consensus regardless of the political position of its electors, to a force in crisis of votes and identity, as well as being hostage to the unpredictable choices of its founder.

In the meantime, rumors of more or less imminent splits of the many M5S souls in the event of a sudden implosion of the party have not subsided. On the one hand there are the dissidents ready to join the ranks of Alternativa c’è group, on the other the praetorians of Conte opposed to the loyalists of Grillo, in the middle the pro-government led by Di Maio – who has remained prudently on the sidelines so as not to damage the institutional profile that he has been built since sitting at the head of Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The former prime minister has a difficult choice ahead of him. He claimed for himself the final word on political choices, alliances and operations of the party, leaving the protection of the original values to the guarantor. Proposal promptly returned to the sender by the Genoese comedian, who says an agreement between the parties can still be reached. Provided, ça va sans dire, on his terms.

According to optimists, a compromise is always possible, but in the meantime Conte risks finding himself at a difficult crossroads. On the one hand, the renunciation to his ambition of building a political career and therefore departing from the scene, leaving Grillo what remains of the M5S; on the other hand, the desire to go all the way, demanding 5-Stars lawmakers and electors a proof of trust in one way or another.

Especially the specter of a possible step backwards by Conte risks creating an earthquake inside the M5S. The break-up could lead to a hemorrhage of MPs, especially if the former premier were to try the third way of creating his personal list – where, among other things, the bond of the two mandates that stirs the sleep of many M5S lawmakers would also disappear.