“I think the ESM reform will pass in order to keep the government alive. But this will not prevent us from being divided amongst ourselves,” an M5S deputy reflected this weekend, after the joint meeting of the party’s parliamentary groups had just ended.
The outlook seems self-contradictory: if the vote on the European state rescue fund is helping the majority, then the M5S should come out united. But the paradoxical scenario helps us grasp the sense of the contradiction. Faced with a choice that the leaders have presented as a vote of confidence in the government, there will hardly be any defections. In the Senate, where the majority is really at risk, out of the 15 or so senators who said they were against the European Stability Mechanism, in the end “only three to four will probably hold on to irreconcilable positions, while the others will at most make sure they don’t take part in the vote,” says someone from the staff who is keeping a record of the internal count. However, this does not mean that this initiative, which many elected officials consider to be a maximum-effort push over the coming months, will not produce any tensions and divisions.
On Sunday, the interim leader, Vito Crimi, gave guarantees of the party’s reliability: “On December 9, there will be a vote on what Prime Minister Conte has communicated,” he told SkyTg24. “I am convinced that there will be a unified majority resolution that will lead us to set our sights even further.” This means that, according to the M5S, there won’t be any vote next Wednesday on the ratification of the ESM Treaty (which will only come in a year), while Conte will present himself before Parliament with a formula that will allow him to show up at the European Council with a still-reliable majority.
And yet, the fate of the Five Star Movement will depend on this vote, because it has become a referendum on the future of the legislature. “Whoever votes ‘no’ brings down the government,” said Luigi Di Maio in no uncertain terms during the plenary session. The clear message has allowed the “pro-government” side to put an ultimatum that not only secures the support for the majority, but also the internal balance of the M5S—after Alessandro Di Battista disavowed the small split over Europe that took place a few days ago, Crimi and Di Maio can allow themselves to score another victory and move their troops a little further towards pragmatism and compatibility for governing.
In this way, the losses on the ground should be limited, in terms of votes lost by the majority, and this will allow more of a winnowing among the parliamentary groups. This is the reasoning of the leaders at the moment: forcing the physical departures of dissenters in the name of the new phase. Also for this reason, in the midst of the internal clash on the ESM, Crimi announced that during next week, there will be a vote on the Rousseau platform to approve the first choices proposed by the M5S States General, the attempt at finding common ground within the party that dates back to only last month but which seems to have been rendered obsolete by events. The new form of collegiate leadership is being ratified, but it is not yet time to vote on the actual roles.
The plan seems like a gamble, since the game is no longer played at the level of party congress motions and clashes about the party line, but is about nothing less than holding the majority together. But if Conte still has the numbers right this time, the operation would prove to be as surgically precise as it will be unscrupulous. And it would confirm the intention of the M5S to move their camp decisively into the zone of traditional politics.