The survival of the ‘Anti-Party Party Paradox’

Evidence from the Five Stars Movement


  • Francesco Vogelezang



populism, Five Stars Movement, Anti-Party Parties, Party Routinization


As of June 1, 2018, Italy is governed by two populist factions: the Five Stars Movement (5SM) and the League. The former, being an anti-party party, has become the first political force in only nine years of existence by advocating for a desired change of Italian politics. The latter is instead an extreme-right wing populist faction that has previously ruled with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party and was heavily involved in corruption scandals. At first sight, this governmental coalition seems antithetical with the proclaimed purity and difference of the 5SM from its ordinary political competitors. What is more, not only the 5SM has recently adopted internal rules which resemble those of established parties, but it has also performed behaviours which are in sharp contradiction with its ideology and values. In light of this contrast, this paper extends Cas Mudde’s (1996) anti-party party paradox to the 5SM by examining how anti-party parties behave in power with other populist factions. It adopts party routinisation theory to analyse how changes of internal organisation within the movement have effectively translated into external behaviours which are ‘party-like’. What emerges is that the Five Stars Movement, despite governing with another populist faction, has become internally and externally routinised as a normal party in the necessary limitations of the Italian political reality. As such, the anti-party party paradox survives even when compromise is achieved at the national level with another populist party.


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