Grillo huddles with M5S amid dissent reports

'Others splitting, not us', says leader

Grillo huddles with M5S amid dissent reports

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, April 5 - The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) is not set to split, founder Beppe Grillo said Friday after a powwow with movement MPs, denying reports of growing dissent. "The others are splitting, not us," said the allegedly authoritarian leader, whose movement holds the balance of power in Italy's hung parliament. Media-swarmed M5S representatives as they boarded a privately-chartered bus on Friday morning in Rome to head to an initially undisclosed location for meetings. M5S MPs then holed up all day in a villa near Fiumicino south of Rome for a talks with their firebrand leader to discuss the party's pledge of non-alliance and other policies. Initially the location had reportedly been kept secret even from participants themselves to deter media coverage of the potentially heated debate. M5S took over 25% of the vote in the House in February's general elections and holds the balance in a divided Senate while refusing to compromise with other parties in order to form a government. Grillo has maintained a policy of non-alliance with other political formations - including the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) of Pier Luigi Bersani, who got a tidy majority in the lower chamber of parliament thanks to a winner's bonus but failed to clinch a working majority in the equally powerful Senate. The comedian from Genoa refuses to talk to the PD or ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PdL), damning them as equally culpable in an allegedly corrupt and dysfunctional system. Advances by Bersani have been repeatedly rebuffed by Grillo. However, cracks began to appear within M5S after the Bersani successfully imposed his candidate for Senate Speaker thanks to support from some M5S representatives. And there has been growing criticism from grass-roots M5S supporters and some MPs over a stance that has helped prevent the formation of a new government. Grillo said during Friday's meeting that it was "legitimate" for some members to disagree with official party policy during. "I don't expect a total convergence of ideas within the movement, it is legitimate that some people should see things differently," he added. However, in March as Bersani vied to gain a confidence vote to solidify a legislature, the House whip for Grillo's Movement said any of its lawmakers who vote confidence in a government led by Bersani's centre-left alliance will be expelled. "There won't be a deal (for a confidence vote)," said Roberta Lombardi. "If anyone decides to do it, they'll be out of the movement". During Friday's meetings, the comic-turned-politician reminded MPs that they should not trust political parties as they had not managed to change Italy's electoral law when they had the chance. Introduced by the 2001-2006 Berlusconi government, the law, dubbed 'pig's dinner', is considered one of the main reasons why the February elections delivered such an inconclusive result.

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