Commentary. With a single click, the Five Star militants set the country on course. But should so much depend on the opinions of so few? And how can we be sure the results weren’t tampered with? If Rousseau is to play a role in the governance of the state, these questions need answers.

And now the curtain rises

With the results of the Rousseau vote, 79.3% in favor to 20.7% against, the Conte government enters the home stretch and with a little extra energy to boot.

The nominated prime minister will no longer have any reason to hold back, and will present the list of ministers to the President. This outcome does not leave us indifferent, as we have argued that, by the mere fact of sidelining Salvini and the Lega fascists, the birth of the M5S-Democratic Party alliance would be a crucial turning point.

We wrote that it was worth taking the plunge to save our fragile democracy and our Constitution. So, with a new center-left government, we will be happy to roll up our sleeves to exercise the right and duty of criticism which is in the DNA of every free newspaper, as we have been for 50 years now. For the left, a fertile ground is opening up, a better opportunity to listen and engage in the struggle.

However, today it is important to discuss the topic of democracy. Tuesday, tens of thousands of party activists had an important task to fulfill: by casting a vote, they had the opportunity to decide nothing less than the future fate of the country. Online, with one click, they had to approve or reject the birth of an M5S-Democratic government, an important political choice on the national level.

No one should wonder at the customary ritual of voting on the Rousseau platform for a movement which was born online.

It grew under the guiding idea of ​​direct democracy, although washed down with massive doses of “everyman” rhetoric, suspicion toward differing political ideas, and suffering from a persistent distrust of experts. But this time, the criticism by several parliamentarians against putting the question to a vote, Grillo’s repeated reproaches about the way to formulate the question to be voted on, and the position of the majority of the party’s deputies and senators, who were all-in in favor a government agreement, give us a glimpse of how the forms—and thus also the substance—of democratic participation should (or at least could) change for the future.

In any case, for future reference, it should be pointed out first of all that a consultation with a party’s activist base regarding a crucial historical turning point, while legitimate and desirable, should be conducted in advance, before the parliamentary groups and the party leaders make their opinions known and choose the path or the direction to follow. The problem was averted because the result of the vote was positive, but if it hadn’t been, this would have been a disavowal of the whole leadership of the party.

And, since it is possible that other “one-click” votes will be needed in the future, the issue remains relevant.

Secondly, the activists should think seriously about the possibility that the results could be manipulated: are we sure that the vote counts are not being altered, in one direction or another, by the platform operators, Casaleggio Associati? We ourselves cannot be sure, but we’d like to believe that in a vote that was so divisive for the Movement, the supporters of both Yes and No had some way to check that the process was being managed fairly.

The third concern, however, is the most important one: should the opinion of mere tens of thousands of people be so decisive for the fate of a country of 60 million inhabitants and for the fate of our constitutional democracy?

There can be only one answer, which must be put in stark terms: no, it can’t be, and most importantly, it shouldn’t be. Also because this was, in any case, a vote that expressed the will of a majority within a narrow private group.

And here we may enter into another field of reflection regarding the meaning of democracy, precisely because this was a private vote which, however, was crucial from the point of view of the general public.

But for now, on this point as well as regarding the more narrow area of the government program, as far as we are concerned, we are only at the beginning.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!