Italy's Five Star party confirms Di Maio as leader after EU election loss

Italian Deputy Prime Minister and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio leaves after casting his vote in the European elections.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister and 5-Star Movement leader Luigi Di Maio leaves after casting his vote in the European elections.PHOTO: REUTERS

ROME (DPA) - Luigi Di Maio was confirmed the leader of Italy's ruling Five Star Movement (M5S) on Thursday (May 30) in an online vote by party members that Di Maio had called after a heavy defeat in European Parliament elections.

Di Maio was backed by 80 per cent of the more than 56,000 people who voted on the M5S online platform Rousseau, the party said in a statement.

A pro-Di Maio outcome was widely expected, since senior M5S figures, including party founder and comedian Beppe Grillo, had endorsed him.

Di Maio has been party leader since September 2017 and serves in the government as deputy premier and as industry and labour minister.

"I thank you all and I love you!" Di Maio wrote on Facebook, promising to reorganise and re-galvanise the party.

"I am sure that together we will have a new start stronger than before," he said.

On Sunday, the M5S' share of the vote crashed to 17.1 per cent from around 32 per cent in last year's general election. Its far-right coalition partner, the League, nearly doubled its votes from 17.4 to 34.3 per cent.