Italy’s ‘Five Star’ Grows Up Into a Real Party, Scandals and All

Most of Italy’s votes are allotted on a proportional system that benefits the strong party identification that the Five Star Movement enjoys, especially in the south.

But a new electoral law also gives seats in Parliament to the victors of winner-take-all districts. In those contests, a well-known, old school local politician has the edge.

“Five Star’s candidates came out of the web, not the territory,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a politics professor at Rome’s Luiss University. The key to the election, he said, was whether “voters in the south will be driven by brand or the candidates.”

Agropoli, a seaside town south of Naples on Italy’s west coast, is the capital of the district Ms. D’Alessandro wants to represent in Italy’s lower house of Parliament. For some who live there, her party’s name is enough.

Desiré Tortora, 22, said she had never heard of Ms. D’Alessandro but would vote for the Five Star Movement anyway. “They understand the young people and the others are thieves,” she said. “I vote for the party.”

But the governing Democratic Party, which desperately needs to avoid getting wiped out in the south, is banking on the connections built over the decades by its candidate, Franco Alfieri, 52, a far more typical politician.

“He knows everyone,” said Amadeo Maffongelli, 61, in his shop, The Golden Zeppola. “Also his cousin is my wife’s cousin. I’m going to vote for him even if I don’t like his party.”

Mr. Alfieri’s connections are legendary. In 2016, audio surfaced of the region’s powerful governor, Vincenzo De Luca, instructing his lieutenant, Mr. Alfieri, to secure votes with “fish fry” dinners and praising him as imbued with Christ-like powers when it came to exchanging services for electoral support.

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