Opinion: The Five Star Movement is a mess

The mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, is in deep trouble.

In recent months, Raggi has been caught in a series of corruption scandals. But, contrary to expectations, her problems are hardly going to trouble her political party—the Five Star Movement.

Since her election in June 2016, Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer from Rome, has been subject to harsh critiques. In December, police arrested one of Raggi’s closest collaborators, Raffaele Marra, on corruption charges and are now investigating the mayor for abuse of office.

Two more members of her city council resigned after the scandals broke. One of them is Salvatore Romeo, who signed three life insurance policies of which Raggi is the beneficiary.

Later this year, as soon as the interim government led by Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni approves a long-awaited electoral reform law, Italians will vote for their next parliament. As of January, the Five Star Movement was the second most popular party (expected to win 26.4 percent of the vote nationally, according to a poll by WinPoll for the Huffington Post) after the Democratic Party (at 28.8 percent).

At first glance, it may seem that Raggi has alienated voters from the Five Star Movement. After the first scandal broke, the party did fall by several percentage points in national polls. But those who think that these scandals will harm the movement’s performance in upcoming national elections are missing a crucial point: scandals do not necessarily decrease popular support for a political party. The movement is likely to distract its supporters from the scandals with a mixture of media bashing and authoritarian posturing.

Read the full op-ed here.

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