Interview With 5-Star Movement’s Alessandro Di Battista
Interview with 5-Star Movement’s Alessandro di Battista, conducted by Peter Foster and Andrea Vogt for the Telegraph in Genoa
Mr. Di Battista, what did you take away from your 6000 kilometre tour around Italy?
“We got to know the real country, which is not the one described in Renzi’s Power-point presentations. It is a country asking for everything but a Senate nominated by the political parties. The phrase I heard the most in Italy is “here they’ve closed a hospital,” and I can tell you hospitals are not closing because of a lack of sick people.”
Would a “No” win be a boost for the Five Star Movement?
“We are not voting on the movement. And there is nothing about this that relates to either Trump or Brexit. Nothing. We never proposed this as a political referendum, it was Renzi who did that.”
If he loses, should Renzi resign?
“Given that Renzi has never kept his promises, he won’t do it. We are going to try to make sure this is the first promises he keeps.”
How much of a margin of victory would you need to force his resignation?
“The “No” victory is not a given. A “No” victory would be a miracle. And in any case we are not reasoning that way. We are defending the constitutional principle of the sovereignty of the people.”
And what if the “No” win creates a banking crisis and a run on Italian sovereign debt?
“I have some news for you: the banking crisis in Italy has been going on for the last 5 years. Banks have been failing. Banks have been rescued. Just look at Monte dei Paschi di Siena.”
It is easy to diagnose the problem, but much harder to propose solutions. How is Five Star going to fix these problems?
“It is evident that being in the opposition is easier than being in government. But we want the chance because those who have been in power for the last 30 years have impoverished us. The first thing we will do if elected is pass a real anti-corruption law.
“Second, we will give extraordinary support to small and medium sized businesses and third will create a citizen’s wage.
“For the Five Star Movement, having a living wage is a right. . . . we have written a law and found 17 billion euros, funded by cuts in the public administration and military, for example, plus a new tax on gambling. It is not giving away money for free.
“It is raising the minimum pension to €780 a month, which is the official poverty level, according to Istat [The Italian statistic agency].
“Those who don’t have work would be required to get job training, do public service for their cities and be on this course. They get €780 a month and the state offers them three job offers. If the citizen refuses all three, they lose the wage.”
So what about the Euro? If Italy’s banks require a European bailout, that will essentially put Italy under the tutelage of Brussels. But the alternative, as the Greeks found out, is a catastrophe. Is the idea of leaving the euro just for show?
“Excuse me, but Pope Francis recently said, you can’t save banks instead of people. For what reason do the banks have to fail in 2016?
“Because somebody had their snouts in the trough at the banks. Corruption. [The struggling Italian bank] Monte dei Paschi di Siena was devoured by the [Matteo Renzi’s] Democratic Party. The bank of Italy is controlled by private institutions that it should control. We propose a separation between investment banks and credit unions.”
This story originally appeared in the Telegraph here.