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Grading Rubric available in the attachment 2-3 sources expected per response; you need not go beyond assigned readings.Please use (parenthetical) or footnote citations for sources; you may use the last-name or title as presented in the syllabusIf you are using additional sources, please cite these sources at the endYour response should flow as a single answer so outline your responses beforeEach question has ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ sub portions. You may optionally indicate where you are responding to each sub-portion. You may also optionally use bold, italic, or underline key responses (as I have done in the prompts). Neither are mandatory.*****X. 5-Star MovementThe 5-Star Movement has gone from nothing in 2008 to the most popular party in Italy in the 2013 & 2018 elections.What structural conditions were in place that enabled such a part to do so well so quickly?Will such success continue or are there challenges that the party faces to sustain such popularity?The party has unique organizational features that have adapted as the party as grown. Do these features inhibit, aid, or are tangential (unrelated) to past and future success of the party?The Readings:PiE; 4.3 (Who has the Power?:5 Star Movement): p. 394-393Passarelli, Gianluca, and Dario Tuorto. (2016) “The Five Star Movement Purely a matter of protest?The rise of a new party between political discontent and reasoned voting.” Party Politics 1-12Filippo Tronconi (2018) The Italian Five Star Movement during the Crisis: Towards Normalisation?,South European Society and Politics, 23:1, 163-180Luigi Ceccarini & Fabio Bordignon (2018) Towards the 5 star party, Contemporary Italian Politics,10:4, 346-362


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Contemporary Italian Politics
ISSN: 2324-8823 (Print) 2324-8831 (Online) Journal homepage:
The five stars continue to shine: the consolidation
of Grillo’s ‘movement party’ in Italy
Luigi Ceccarini & Fabio Bordignon
To cite this article: Luigi Ceccarini & Fabio Bordignon (2016) The five stars continue to shine:
the consolidation of Grillo’s ‘movement party’ in Italy, Contemporary Italian Politics, 8:2,
131-159, DOI: 10.1080/23248823.2016.1202667
To link to this article:
Published online: 05 Jul 2016.
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Date: 25 July 2016, At: 15:12
VOL. 8, NO. 2, 131–159
The five stars continue to shine: the consolidation of Grillo’s
‘movement party’ in Italy
Luigi Ceccarini
and Fabio Bordignon
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School of Political and Social Studies, University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Urbino, Italy
Despite the predictions of observers and opponents, the Five-star
Movement continues to hold centre stage in Italian politics. The
article retraces the phases of the Movement’s development and
consolidation from the point of view of its electoral performance,
its internal organisation and the socio-demographic and ideological profiles of its voters, concentrating on the most recent period.
In particular, it focuses on the difficulties that emerged in the wake
of the European elections of 2014. The consequent birth of the socalled Five-star Directorate and the new direction of change
internally and externally confirm that the study of this ‘movement
party’ has relevance beyond the Italian case and throws light on
the crisis of contemporary representative democracies.
Received 8 September 2015
Accepted 14 May 2016
Five-star Movement;
movement party; Italian
politics; political leadership;
1. Beyond left and right: the five stars in a new political space
In many countries of Europe, the growth of new political parties is undermining the
stability of traditional party systems with their bi-polar (or two-party) formats. The Fivestar Movement (M5s) in Italy; Podemos in Spain; the UK Independence Party (Ukip) in
Britain; the Front National in France; Alternative für Deutschland in Germany: these are
all formations with very different backgrounds, in some cases very long histories, in
others very brief. Their points of departure, on the extreme left and the extreme right, are
diametrically opposed. They belong to an indistinct category difficult to define using the
traditional concepts of political science. They fail to conform to the standard analytic
frameworks, and indeed they reject them, often describing themselves as ‘outside’,
‘beyond’ or ‘above’ the main, left–right, political divide. They often combine, within
themselves, contrasting traditions – of left and right – while refusing to accept that this
traditional political, ideological and cultural distinction has the implications for political
identity and the divisive capacity that it had in the past. They are able indeed to profit by
and draw strength from this questioning of traditional assumptions.
What these various actors have in common is that they are all expressions of
populism (Meny and Surel 2002; Albertazzi and McDonnell 2007, 2015). This concept
is indeed helpful in that it highlights precisely what unites them: the critique of
CONTACT Luigi Ceccarini
[email protected]
School of Political and Social Studies, University of Urbino
Carlo Bo, Piazza Gherardi, 4, 61049 Urbino, Italy
Both authors have contributed equally. This is one of several joint works and the ordering of names simply reflects a
principle of rotation.
© The Founding Editors, Contemporary Italian Politics
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(representative) democracy and its principal actors; dissatisfaction with the way it
actually works; criticism of its oligarchical deformities. These are elements that affect
domestic, and to an even greater extent, international politics: the dynamics of globalisation, the migration of political power beyond the confines of the nation state
towards supranational institutions. In particular, the common element in the outlooks
of these actors is a Eurosceptical or explicitly anti-(Euro)pean perspective. They have
found fertile terrain in the weaknesses of mainstream politics – weaknesses that,
beginning in 2008 and 2009, have been enhanced by the global economic and financial
crisis. It is no accident that these formations have also offered representation to those
who have lost out from the crisis, citizens with different characteristics in different
countries but all of whom are among the least fortunate: the left behind.
Among the aforementioned political parties, the M5s is perhaps the most interesting, this due to the speed of its growth and the originality of its organisational style
(Biorcio and Natale 2013; Bordignon and Ceccarini 2013a; Corbetta and Gualmini
2013; Diamanti 2014; Tronconi 2015). A little more than three years after its official
birth in 2009, the Movement founded by Beppe Grillo won more than 25% of the vote
in the general election of 2013. Emerging from the Internet where it was born, it
conquered significant electoral ground and made its debut within the walls of the
political institutions. Entering Parliament it became a party – the largest party –
though refusing to call itself such, and although tenaciously preserving its anti-party
rhetoric and an unusual organisational structure (Lanfrey 2011; Lanzone 2015). It has
become partly institutionalised, though retaining the anti-system perspective that has
characterised it from the beginning. It has undergone partial normalisation while
continuing to display totally peculiar characteristics that make it unique on the
international stage. Above all it has survived, falsifying the predictions of those who
believed that it would rapidly disintegrate.
It is more than likely that one of those organisational hybrids produced by the various
factors of change, often working simultaneously (Bardi 2006, 17), is involved in the
evolution of political parties. It is in part the party of a charismatic leader, typical of
populist formations in particular, in part a participatory party, like those of the environmental movement and the new left (Poguntke 1987). It is a party in public office, born as a
web-based party, but particularly attentive to the rank-and-file through the network of
MeetUp groups. It can thus be seen as a hybrid ‘movement party’ (Kitschelt 2006). But in
certain respects it has the characteristics of a catch-all (anti-party) party, based on nontraditional divisions, and/or on (anti-political) sentiments which, far from dividing, unite
groups of citizens whose ideological orientations are otherwise very different.
True, the M5s went through a period of crisis following the sudden electoral explosion
that took place at the general election of February 2013: a period of ‘growing pains’ as the
saying goes. To a certain extent, it has been a victim of its own success – this because the
speed of its growth took its spokespersons by surprise, preventing a slower and more
gradual construction of its political profile and organisational structure, and because other
political actors made the demand for renewal and the anti-political themes expressed by
Beppe Grillo’s movement their own. For these reasons too the M5s experienced a period of
retreat, one that coincided with the European elections of 2014 and the subsequent
months. The tendency to isolate themselves in Parliament, avoiding agreements with the
other political forces; their substantial irrelevance to political competition in general; the
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growth of tensions within the Movement: all these factors seemed to support those who
described the M5s as a transitory phenomenon. The Grillo phenomenon seemed destined
to fade together with the causes that had brought about its explosion.
This, however, hasn’t happened: the five stars have not faded in the sky of Italian
politics. Halfway through 2015, the party founded by Grillo resumed its ascent in the
opinion polls, thanks too to its good performance in the regional and local elections of
2015. It showed a persistence and a capacity for consolidation beyond expectations as
well as a capacity to adapt, which, however, did not entirely betray the assumptions
with which it began.
The fundamental question put forward in this article concerns how the M5s can be
conceptualised as of the end of 2015. It seeks to analyse the extent to which, since it
took up its place in the national institutions and became a party in public office, the
profile of the M5s has changed. We look at how it is perceived by its supporters and by
the electorate as a whole. More generally, we shall look at what its role has been in the
transformation of the Italian political system and what clues it offers for the study of
democracy in Europe. In the paragraphs that follow we shall attempt to offer answers to
these research questions dividing the work into two parts.
(i) In the first part, we shall describe the development of the Movement (Section 2).
Its history is short but marked by important changes and alterations of tack, which can
be divided into five principal phases. In particular, we shall concentrate on the change
of course that was marked by the M5s’ entry into public office, before considering
(Section 3) the most recent period: the European elections of 2014 and the formation of
the so-called Directorate of the M5s.
(ii) In the second part, in contrast, we shall describe the Movement’s electorate
using the information gathered through the surveys carried out by DemosΠ and
analysed within the framework of the activities of the Political and Social Studies
Laboratory of the Carlo Bo University of Urbino. This part is divided into a
number of sections that consider the social and political profile of M5s voters
(Section 4), their images of the Movement’s leadership group (Section 5), their
orientations towards the leadership (Section 6) and towards political issues
(Section 7). Finally, attention is focussed on the question of possible alliances
and of the feelings of closeness of M5s voters to other parties in the Italian
political system (Section 8).
In the concluding section we attempt to bring together the various fragments of
evidence we have collected, in such a way as to provide a composite picture of this
political actor.
2. Five stars, through five seasons, to five new leaders?
In order to understand what sort of entity the M5s now is, it is necessary to review its
brief history, with the aim of bringing into focus what it was like at the beginning; what
its most salient features are today, and the most significant changes that have taken
place in the meantime. It is a journey that has been marked by a large number of
dramatic events, concentrated in time, which we can subdivide into five principal
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2.1. The leader in the long run-up (2009)
The gestation period leading up the birth of the M5s was lengthy, and it coincided to a
large extent with the biography of the Movement’s leader and founder, Beppe Grillo.
Excluded from public television at the end of the 1980s, the comic and presenter
underwent a metamorphosis that led him progressively to become a successful blogger
and ‘preacher’. In his widely popular shows, entertainment was mixed with campaigns
of mobilisation and denunciation around issues of public interest and the ‘common
good’. Grillo’s campaigns were initially focussed on defence of the environment and
opposition to the power of the multinationals and large economic and financial groups.
From 2005 – the year in which was founded – the Internet became not
only a channel through which to raise the visibility of the campaigns he was promoting
and subsequently the organisational base for the movement that was emerging through
the platform. Beppe Grillo and Gianroberto Casaleggio – an
Internet guru and communications consultant – took the World Wide Web as the basis
for a veritable ideological perspective. The Internet was seen as a channel for the
transmission of alternative information counter-posed to mainstream media. It was
also seen as an instrument of democratic renewal, a means of reviving political
participation and of encouraging the direct involvement of citizens in the making of
political decisions. This was the period of the first two V-Day events: Vaffanculo Days,
when Grillo’s followers shouted ‘Fuck off!’ (‘Vaffanculo!’ in Italian) to the two ‘castes’ of
politicians (2007) and journalists (2008).
2.2. Foundation and first steps (2009–2012)
The M5s was initially established in October 2009. It brought on line a myriad of
individuals and groups, for the most part pre-existing Grillo’s initiative, who were
mobilised on the ground in relation to a wide variety of specific issues (Biorcio 2015).
The five stars emerged from this dense molecular cloud. They represented the nucleus
of the five founding issues that were then redefined over time: the safeguarding of
public water and the environment, the growth of public transport and connectivity, and
development. In its ‘non-statute’,2 the M5s defines itself as a ‘non-party’. Those who
want to join must not be members of any other party, while those aspiring to be
candidates for public office must meet only one additional prerequisite, that of not
having been convicted of any criminal offence. Already in this initial phase, the M5s
shows that mix of characteristics, only seemingly contradictory, that characterise its
organisational set-up. Its organisation is exquisitely horizontal: open and decentralised,
anti-hierarchical and leaderless. ‘One is worth one!’ is the slogan utilised by the
Movement’s activists to mark its distance both from the pyramid structure of the
traditional (mass) parties and from the various types of personal or personalised
party that had emerged in Italy and other countries during the course of the preceding
20 years (Calise [2000] 2010). The founder himself always denied that he was a leader,
preferring the label of ‘guarantor’ or ‘megaphone’ for the Movement, and he never
stood as an election candidate. Behind this apparently weak and fluid set-up, there was,
however, a strong organisation, one that was held together by an exquisitely top-down
architecture. The ‘non-statute’ itself establishes, in fact, that the party’s headquarters
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coincide not so much with a physical space, a legal centre to be found in some city
street, but rather with the personal blog of Beppe Grillo, that is, with a URL. At the
same time, the Movement’s founder is also the legitimate owner of the Five-star brand:
the fact that he has the exclusive right to allow or deny use of the party’s symbol
represents still today the most evident sign of the total control exercised by the ‘nonleader’ over the Movement’s most significant actions. It allows Grillo to decide, at any
moment, who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. At the same time, the Movement has a highly
professional organisational nucleus with a communications agency embedded in its
central committee. Every aspect of the Movement’s communication is entirely controlled by Casaleggio’s staff or by the staff of Casaleggio Associates, whose owner,
Gianroberto Casaleggio, is the de facto co-founder and ‘co-pilot’, together with Grillo,
of the M5s. It is on this basis that between 2009 and 2011, the M5s began to contest its
first elections, succeeding in electing its first regional and municipal councillors. These
were still isolated successes, however, limited to a small number of localities, mainly
concentrated in the regions of the Centre and the North.
2.3. The electoral boom (2012–2013)
The true turning point coincided with the local elections of 2012. These were still a
partial test, but nevertheless, the ability of the Movement to field candidates had grown
considerably, and in the municipalities where they were presented, its support touched
9%. Above all it had become sufficiently competitive to be able to win four municipalities: the first ‘capital’ of Five-star Italy was the important city of Parma in the Emilia
Romagna region. During the course of 2012, opinion polls began to register a sharp
increase in support for the M5s, which from 4% rose to over 15%. This support began
to be increasingly evenly spread from a geographical point of view thanks to the
Movement’s strong growth in the South, which was confirmed by the regional elections
in Sicily during the month of October. But the most significant (though unexpected)
boom came with the general election of February 2013 (Chiaramonte and De Sio 2014;
Diamanti, Bordignon, and Ceccarini 2013; Itanes 2013). Support for the M5s rose to
25.6%, making it the largest political party at its debut on the national political stage. In
this period it was able to exploit the window of opportunity that had been opened by
the dual crisis then afflicting Italy: the economic crisis and the crisis of the country’s
institutions. In particular, Grillo’s party was able to ride the wave of anti-political
sentiments that had been strengthened in the wake of the elimination of the political
centrality and subsequent fall of the Berlusconi government at the end of 2011
(Ceccarini, Diamanti, and Lazar 2012), and the formation of the technocratic government led by Mario Monti and supported by a grand coalition.
The M5s expressed strong opposition to the political parties: to the parties and to
politicians generally. It offered representation to those who had lost out from the crisis,
in particular to young people excluded from the labour market. It gave expression to
the dissatisfaction felt towards the political class, to the popular resentment at widespread illegality and corruption, to the demand for democratic renewal. It built its
message around certain key words: legality, sobriety and political transparency. It
offered new channels of participation to citizens alienated from politics, to habitual
abstainers or those who were disappointed with their experience of participation
through the traditional institutional channels offered by the mainstream political
parties. In this way it was able to fill the gap left by the retreat of the larger parties of
the left and the right (Diamanti 2013). It was able to attract support from voters who
were extremely heterogeneous in terms of their ideological and political backgrounds,
among whom the young and the very young formed a significant component.
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2.4. Inside the institutions . . . towards the institutions (2013–2014)
With the election of no fewer than 163 representatives to the Chamber of Deputies and
the Senate, the Movement completed its transformation into a polit …
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