ROME (Reuters) – Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement looks poised to name Luigi Di Maio as its candidate for prime minister in elections early next year and, if opinion polls are to be believed, the earnest 31-year-old has a good chance of winning.
Di Maio’s critics scoff at his modest curriculum vitae, but his youth and acknowledged communication skills are key to his success.
His rapid rise has mirrored that of 5-Star. Five years ago he was living in a small town in Italy’s poor south and struggling to make ends meet as a designer and maintainer of websites, while studying law at Naples University.
He had previously worked as a steward at Naples football club, a building laborer and a waiter, according to the video he presented to 5-Star supporters to ask them to back him as a candidate for parliament in 2013.
Detractors say his inexperience means he cannot be taken seriously as a potential prime minister. Yet opinion polls show he is by far 5-Star’s most popular politician and among the two or three most popular in Italy.
“5-Star is a young, innovative movement, so having someone very young in the front line helps to get that message across,” said fellow deputy Alfonso Bonafede, a close Di Maio ally.
Boyish looking and immaculately turned out in suit and tie, he presents a moderate image in striking contrast to the movement’s founder, 69-year-old comedian Beppe Grillo who is famous for his raucous tirades against Italy’s ruling elite.
“Di Maio comes across as calm and responsible, which reassures voters who might not be naturally drawn to 5-Star,” said Giovanni Orsina, politics professor at Rome’s Luiss University.
Politically Di Maio, who has taken tough stances on law-and-order and immigration, is seen on the right of the maverick party which says traditional left-right labels have no meaning.
Its policies include the introduction of universal income support for the poor, phasing out fossil fuels and boosting public investment….