ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s ruling 5-Star Movement has suggested using verbal sleight of hand to solve a problem that has been bothering some of its politicians — a rigid two-term limit on how long members can hold office.
The anti-establishment 5-Star was founded 10 years ago, shaking up Italian politics and promising to bring transparency to a world renowned for backroom deals and rampant corruption.
As part of this drive, it set an internal rule that no member can hold elected office for more than two terms, an effort to prevent politicians from establishing fiefdoms and to give the party a constant supply of fresh energy.
Voters applauded the measure, but 5-Star worries that its first generation of councillors at a local level will soon be swept from office as the regulation kicks in, taking with them precious political know-how.
To get around the problem, 5-Star leader Luigi Di Maio has said the first mandate for local councillors should no longer count in the two-term tally.
“What can we do to make sure this experience is not lost?” Di Maio said in a video posted on Facebook. “We have decided to introduce the so-called zero mandate … a first mandate which doesn’t count in the two-mandate rule.”
The reform will only apply to local politicians, he said, leaving a question mark still hanging over his own future and that of many of the 5-Star’s most well-known faces.
More than 80 5-Star politicians in the national parliament are currently serving a second term, including the justice minister, health minister and speaker of the lower house.
Opposition parties say the fact so many 5-Star lawmakers will have to stand aside at the end of this parliament means that they are anxious not see early elections, giving their coalition partner the League negotiating leverage over them.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer, editing by Larry King)