Interview. ‘The M5S is fully an alternative to the right: that is a past that is no longer possible. Now we are firmly anchored to progressive values, which are those of our origins.’

Roberto Fico: M5S is a progressive party and will never work with Lega again

Roberto Fico, in his last days as president of the Chamber of Deputies, is participating in the electoral campaign as a non-candidate, after he already served the two mandates allowed by the rules of the Five Star Movement.

“I am encountering a country where social gaps still exist,” he says. “A country that is asking politics to take up its responsibilities. But I also see a country that can express extraordinary talents and creativity, that wants to feel like a community and that trusts the institutions. I’ve traveled a lot, from Campania to Piedmont, Sardinia and Tuscany. It’s up to politicians not to disappoint expectations and to commit themselves to always build positive future prospects.”

Does the right-wing scare you?

No, because I know that our institutions and our republican values are solid. But I consider it dangerous for the country, because I don’t believe that the measures they intend to adopt are what Italy needs. For example, I think it would be risky to eliminate the citizenship income and thus do away with concrete support for those in difficulty.

Is it the return of Berlusconism in other forms?

Certainly there are remnants of Berlusconism, but in recent years new phenomena have also emerged.

For example, there are fears for the right to abortion.

There is little clarity about what the right wing has in mind on abortion, there are representatives who talk about changing this law that has been a historic guarantee for women and their rights. I hear talk of a “right to not abort,” which is a contradiction in terms. Instead, we must fully guarantee women the right to abortion: public and secular hospitals must do so. Unfortunately, this often does not happen today.

There is a risk that Meloni will join the Spaniards of Vox and take part in an axis with the European right.

In my view, the model of society that Orban proposes is absolutely negative. It’s a model that questions civil rights, first of all. And then, it’s a sovereignist model that doesn’t think in terms of solidarity within Europe. But Europe needs to have a shared path: a common debt and a common energy supply. These must be shared in order to face the epochal challenges we’re up against together, and thus in a better way. No country can do this alone. Likewise, when we talk about migration, we need European solidarity, not walls and barbed wire.

By the way, during the time of the Conte 1 government you showed a certain uneasiness about the security decrees, in every way you could.

Yes, in those times I said that I thought those measures were a mistake. And now I’m saying that the M5S is fully an alternative to the right: that is a past that is no longer possible. Now we are firmly anchored to progressive values, which are those of our origins: common goods, social rights, the environment.

You abandoned the Rousseau platform and some views that questioned representative democracy. Is the legislature that just ended the one that marked a constitutional turn for the M5S?

I don’t agree. We have always stood within the principles and values of our Constitution. With respect to direct democracy, I have always thought it was a valuable tool, but complementary to representative democracy, not an alternative. And I continue to believe in the centrality of referendums, as the highest instrument of the will of the people.

Was it a consensual divorce with the PD?

After the fall of the Draghi government, they made hasty and confused choices. They burned their bridges with the M5S, and simultaneously pursued a wide tent strategy where everyone had a place. We went ahead in the spirit of consistency, presenting before the citizens a progressive program, clear in terms of content and a vision for the country. An option that is finding support among the people, I believe.

The M5S has fought from the outset against changes of party mid-mandate. However, in the last five years you have seen the number of parliamentary groups halved and the appointment of a minister for the ecological transition who wasn’t open to your demands.

I believe that this is first and foremost a problem of political culture. What can be done is to introduce elements of deterrence into parliamentary regulations, but unfortunately in the House this reform did not pass because the needed support wasn’t there. It was a missed opportunity, without a doubt.

Your personal history is also rooted in the movement for public water. In that regard, writing in the columns of our newspaper, you reiterated your desire to work for a law to protect the common good.

It’s a battle that we continue to push forward, it’s part of our program. In this legislature, we tried but we clashed first with the Lega and then with the center-left. In both cases, an agreement was not found. But we will continue to fight to make these necessary steps forward.

After you were elected President of the Chamber of Deputies, you undertook to restore the central role of Parliament. How was this legislature from this point of view?

Parliament has always been central. With the pandemic, the country went through one of the most difficult phases since the post-war period. And the Chamber has been a beacon for the community and has played a crucial role. All key measures were authorized by the Chamber. And I will also say that we were the only ones in Europe who always kept working. I am proud of that.

At the beginning of your mandate, you took a public bus to get to Montecitorio, a symbolic gesture. What is the first thing you’ll do on your first day as ex-president?

(Smiles) A nice walk!

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