×

CNBC Interview with 5-Star Movement Leader Luigi Di Maio

Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with 5-Star Movement Leader Luigi Di Maio and CNBC's Willem Marx.

How badly do you want to become PM?

I think that Italy has a chance, the chance of having a 5-Star Government to fix a series of issues that have never been solved. Italy has been waiting for 30 years for measures in support of our industries, measures to reduce bureaucracy. We need to help the weakest in society, young and old, those who are poor and unheard. It's not about me becoming Prime Minister, I just want to represent the forgotten ones.

It's a very diplomatic answer: do you think you would be a better Prime Minister than Matteo Renzi?

I think that Renzi hasn't kept his promises. He hasn't been loyal to the Italian people. We lost credibility in Europe, he didn't have Italy's best interest in mind. He did not defend the Italian economy which needed help from the EU.

Berlusconi was convicted for tax fraud. Should he have any role in choosing who leads Italy in future?

The Italian voters will decide on Berlusconi's role.

I am asking your opinion: do you think that a man with his past should have a role in Italy's future?

I believe that Silvio Berlusconi can't be Prime Minister…

I am not asking whether he should be Prime Minister: I am asking whether he should have any influence, any role, any relevance on Italy's future?

If Italian voters will vote for a centre-right coalition, he will be the leader. But I hope people will not vote for that coalition, a coalition where parties are divided on many issues. Berlusconi is trying to bring his small party in a big political group that doesn't have a clear programme. The Northern League has ties with Marine Le Pen and the Afd, and it's also part of a conservative centre-right bloc. This should worry all countries.

You live in the real world. You can't predict the future, but you look at polls. You understand it's incredibly unlikely that you win an outright majority. Is there any party you would not explore a political partnership with?

I think we'll be the single largest political party in the elections. I think we can win more than 30 percent of the votes. If we won't have a majority, we will make a public appeal to all political parties and I hope that many of them will work in the interest of Italy. I hope they will not join a Government for the sake of gaining a position. We expect that all those forces who claim to have Italy's best interest in mind will respond to our appeal and join a 5-Star Government.

So just to be clear: you are not ruling out a coalition with any political party at this stage..

There are political parties we are struggling to speak with. Those parties represent the establishment that killed our country. I want to see facts. I don't have prejudices towards anyone, but I want to see them in action. I don't trust them until I'll see how they act in Parliament.

The Democratic Party has long talked about reducing deficit and unemployment. Is there anything wrong with those policies?

The Democratic Party did not get many results. And the results that they've got..they didn't put them in their election manifesto. In my opinion, it's important to guarantee safe jobs. If we want reduce the number of precarious jobs for the young generation, we need to reduce the cost of labour. In this way, we allow Italian companies to hire more workers with more rights.

You have said in the past that a referendum on EU membership would be a last resort. What would Brussels need to do or not do for you to take that last resort?

I wouldn't even contemplate that last resort. Germany, France Spain are re- negotiating some of the EU rules. This is the time to make some deficit, to make investments and re-launch the Italian economy. I don't want to even consider that last resort. I believe in the power of dialogue, other European countries are also weaker. Germany can't form a Government, in France traditional political parties don't gain much traction. Spain and Portugal have minority Governments. And of course there is Brexit. Brexit weakened the EU. We need to re-negotiate some EU rules, but not in an in/out referendum.

It seems you are not very clear. Your views have changed, evolved. Is that something that should concern businesses? You seem to be developing your political doctrine as you get ready for office…

At a European level, we need to re-negotiate economic measures. I have met with international investors today, and I have told them that we want to stabilize our economy. Our stance on Europe, on the Euro is that we want to remain part of the EU and the Eurozone. We just want to change some economic rules. This should not scare businesses and investors we want to get some results for Italy and re-launch the EU.

Let's talk about the economy. You said you want to introduce a guaranteed minimum wage. How do you make that work?

Italy is the only country with no flexsecurity instruments. The whole world needs to combine flexibility and security in the jobs market. Felxsecurity will allow employers to refresh their industry. It will also allow the State to re-qualify people and allow them to get back to the job market after they have lost their jobs. So, at this time, we need to invest in instruments such as the guaranteed minimum wage. But those workers who qualify for the guaranteed minimum wage, will need to accept the job that the State offers them. This model exists elsewhere in Europe, it's fully costed. This measure will be part of an economic reform that aims to increase GDP by 1 percent every year.

Final question. Your rise to party leader has been meteoric. Critics say your lack of experience is frightening. What do you tell business leaders, to centrist voters, about their concerns about your own inexperience?

We have opened our lists to Italy's skills and competences. I can accept that people believe I am inexperienced. We have been part of Italy's institutions for the past 5 years. I have been the House Deputy speaker, I have represented one of Italy's most important institutions. And it's from this point of view that I have asked Italy's best energy to join our projects. We have been joined by people from the world of academia, business, even sport. We have got the best skills from every sector. They will join our Parliamentary group. I believe we should play as a team, we can change our country if we work together. This is how I respond to those who say I am inexperienced. They only respond by filling their electoral lists with convicts, or yes-men.

But without a majority, you will have to learn to swim with sharks. Those who swim with shark can get bitten. Are you ready for this?

I believe that Italy can be governed with competence and humility. We need to be ready to this challenge, as a country and as a political party.