As the political party, co-founded by comedian Beppe Grillo, leads opinion polls in Italy ahead of a general election, the influence of Davide Casaleggio, a management consultant from Milan, is attracting increasing scrutiny.
Eight years ago, Beppe Grillo, the burly Italian comedian and the late Gianroberto Casaleggio, an internet entrepreneur who died last year, joined forces to create the anti-establishment Five Star Movement. Today, this insurgent upstart is one of Europe's strongest populist political parties, leading opinion polls in Italy ahead of a general election due in early 2018. It is not just Five Star's euro-skeptic policies that have drawn attention, but also its status as a pioneer of digital democracy. Five Star has no physical headquarters. When its top ranks have met, they have often done so here at the Hotel Forum near the Colosseum.
Instead, it's true home is the web. Its main communications tool if Mr. Grillo's blog, rather than official press releases. And rather than a party structure, Five Star uses a platform called Rousseau, named after the Enlightenment era philosopher, to hold online votes for candidates and policies and select members. Both are essentially run by Gianroberto's son, Davide Casaleggio, a 41-year-old head of a small Milan based e-commerce consultancy called Casaleggio Associati.
While Casaleggio has described himself as just one among Five Star's thousands of supporters and activists, his role and influence are drawing increasing scrutiny. The concern is that there are big gaps in accountability and possibly even conflicts of interests in a political party that has a private company at its core. It may be hard for Five Star to keep railing against the corruption of Italy's traditional political parties unless it solves its own problems with transparency. James Politi, Financial Times, Rome.