February 27, 2013 9:18 pm

Italy looks at ‘Sicilian solution’

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A Sicilian experiment in political co-operation suggests a possible way out of the impasse created by Italy’s inconclusive national elections, according to Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. “Marvellous,” he remarked to reporters on Tuesday, when questioned about Sicily.

His movement won the most votes in the island’s regional elections in October, but decided to stay out of government. Nevertheless, his deputies provide support in Sicily’s legislature for a minority administration comprised of traditional political parties – the centre-left Democrats and the centrist UDC.

In principle this could serve as a model for Italy’s national political arena, after last weekend’s elections gave the Democrats control of parliament’s lower chamber but left them well short of a majority in the Senate.

Fifteen members of the Five Star Movement sit in Sicily’s 90-member assembly, offering support for legislation and political decisions that fit in with Mr Grillo’s programme. The collaboration has led the regional government to block the construction of Muos, a US navy satellite communication system in the town of Niscemi, and halted the privatisation of the region’s water supply system.

Rosario Crocetta, the anti-mafia Democrat who serves as the island’s governor, says that Sicily – often seen by pollsters and sociologists as a mirror of political trends on the Italian mainland – is “tracing the way” forward. Italy is “an old country which has a further chance with Grillo”, Mr Crocetta told Il Mattino, a Naples-based newspaper.

“Everyone remains in their place, but an agreement is possible between a reformist centre-left and the radical movement of Grillo,” he added, praising the comic for “innovative ideas that are successful”.

According to Mr Crocetta, common ground could be found on both labour policy and environmental issues, at least judging by the two groups’ electoral platforms. This might be sufficient to enable them to unite behind the same candidates for the speakerships of Italy’s two legislative chambers and for the position of head of state, which must be decided in April.

Popular support for the Five Star Movement in Sicily has almost doubled since the regional elections, according to opinion polls. The movement’s image was particularly strengthened after “Restitution Day”, when the newly elected legislators gave back about €120,000 to the regional government, equivalent to 70 per cent of their salaries. The money is being used to finance small companies in Sicily.

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