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Six M5S Senators quit amid row over dissidents

Movement split after lawmakers ejected for criticising Grillo

27 February, 14:11
Six M5S Senators quit amid row over dissidents (ANSA) - Rome, February 27 - Six Senators from the 5-Star Movement (M5S) presented their resignations as parliamentarians on Thursday as the anti-establishment group came closer to an angry split after four lawmakers were ejected for criticising leader Beppe Grillo.

The six Senators who quit included Luis Orellana, one of the four voted out of the movement on Wednesday for speaking against Grillo's volcanic display during talks with Premier Matteo Renzi last week before the Democratic Party (PD) leader took power.

The expulsions, decided at an explosive meeting of M5S lawmakers and subsequently ratified by a vote of supporters on Grillo's blog, uncovered deep divisions about the movement's intolerance of internal dissent.

Alessio Tacconi, an M5S member in the Lower House, confirmed Thursday that he was leaving the movement and another MP, Ivan Catalano, has reportedly defected too.

There are reports that M5S rebels could form new groups in both the Senate and the Lower House.

"Finally the dead weights are going," said eight M5S MPs who are loyal to Grillo in a statement.

"They are people who, from this moment on, will become parasites. They should resign, not change party," added the group, including high-ranking M5S figures Luigi Di Maio and Alessandro Di Battista.

Grillo has suggested the rebels are motivated by money and will not longer return the part of their salaries that is in excess of their needs to cover living expenses, as M5S lawmakers have pledged to do.

Tacconi demanded the M5S take back insinuations about him failing return the excess of his salary, saying otherwise it would show that the movement "uses the mud-slinging machine against those who express unwelcome opinions". Grillo said ejecting the four dissidents would make the M5S "more cohesive and stronger" even if it meant the movement had fewer MPs.

The M5S ejected two parliamentarians last year for expressing dissent. Senator Adele Gambaro was thrown out in June after blaming Grillo for the party's poor showing at a round of local elections. Another Senator, Marino Mastrangeli, was voted out in April for breaking a ban on appearing on television chat shows, which Grillo says are rigged to favour the established parties along with much of the rest of the Italian media. A handful of other M5S lawmakers have voluntarily left the movement after it won around a quarter of the vote at last year's inconclusive general election.