An MEP from the Italian political party Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) has confirmed his party plans to field candidates to contest the Maltese European Parliament elections next year.
“We have six collaborations with non-Italian political forces and M5S candidates will be contesting in other European countries,” MEP Marco Valli said in an interview with La Stampa. “We are at an advanced stage of setting up in Malta and we’re trying to do the same in other countries with a strong Italian expat presence. We don’t expect to elect any MEPs abroad because [these forces] are still in their infancy but we’re hopeful that we can establish ourselves and grow in Europe.”
If the plan works, M5S candidates would be taking advantage of EU law which gives EU nationals living in foreign EU countries the right to both vote and stand as candidates in European Parliament elections in that country. Malta has a sizeable Italian community, with data published last June showing there are 7,748 Italians working here, up from 4,023 in 2016.
PN MEP Roberta Metsola urged Italian residents in Malta not to play the M5S’s game
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola urged Italian residents in Malta not to vote for M5S candidates, arguing that Maltese politicians are best placed to represent all EU citizens living here, no matter their nationality.
“If this [plan] is confirmed it would mean that 5 Stelle think they have enough voters in Malta to make a difference,” she told Lovin Malta. This is not unheard of in European Parliament elections but it is a significant development in Malta’s political history. The solution to Malta or Europe’s problems are not found in the populism of 5 Stelle and I am confident that the electorate in Malta will realise this as they have always done.”
“Nothing prevents them from running, but in my view Maltese and Gozitans – and anyone resident in Malta – need Maltese to represent them in the European Parliament. We are best placed to understand what struggles they face, to be able to have the best deal possible for every citizen, to stand up for the country we want – to be their voice in Europe. That is what I have always worked for.”
M5S’s plan to field candidates in foreign countries forms part of its strategy to set up a new European political group as a home for anti-establishment voters “who are disappointed by both the right and the left”.
Its MEPs are currently members of the Eurosceptic EFDD political group, but this group will soon be significantly weakened once it loses UKIP’s 18 MEPs in the wake of Brexit.
Although the M5S are currently in a coalition government with Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord, deputy Italian Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio, leader of the M5S, insisted his party remains completely against Salvini’s proposal to leave the eurozone.