Populism is not a new phenomenon for many parliaments. However, the gradual disclosure of parliamentary procedures, the advent of ICT and social media and their use by individual MPs autonomously, regardless of the institutional channels of communication, have further contributed to making today’s populism a real challenge for parliaments as representative institutions. The Italian case represents a privileged observatory from which to investigate how a parliament copes with and is transformed by the populist “modus operandi”, in particular after the 2018 political elections.
Since populism is, by definition, opposed to everything that appears to make public decisions less “easy”, the law-making process emerges as one of its natural targets. In fact, the purpose of the legislative procedure is precisely that of not making the decision immediate, subjecting it to a series of intermediate steps: therefore, fatally, a populist movement, when it enters parliament, clashes with it. It is necessary, however, to distinguish between the two scenarios, and Italy has given interesting examples of both: when the populist movement is in opposition and when it is in majority.
The paper aims to explore the Italian scenario, where the anti-establishment Five Star Movement has grown to be the leading populist force fostering the direct political participation of voters through the use of the Internet that is supposed to bring, in the long run, political disintermediation. In this respect, the goal of the paper is to explore, from a constitutional law perspective, the grounds on which the rise of this anti-establishment movement has relied and the constraints that the constitution may place on the populist surge.