Italian MP in hot water over preferring sailing to parliament

ROME: An Italian sailing champion turned MP faced a wave of criticism Tuesday after he justified his frequent absence from parliament by insisting he could also do politics from his boat.

Since his election in March, Andrea Mura of the ruling Five Star Movement (M5S) has turned up for only eight of the assembly’s 220 votes, monitoring website OpenPolis revealed.

Ugo Cappellaci, president of Mura’s native Sardinia, remarked that despite the absences, “I don’t think you’ve given up your parliamentary allowance.”

The 2010 “Italian Sailor of the Year” breezily rejected the criticism, telling Sardinia’s La Nuova Sardegna newspaper: “Political activity is not only conducted in parliament. You can also do it on a boat.”

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Besides, he said, with “the overwhelming majority of the Five Star MPs (and its coalition partner, the far-right League party) in the Chamber of Deputies, it makes no difference whether I am present or not.”

The populist M5S and the League together have 341 seats in the 630-member lower house.

And regarding the stipend, the 53-year-old contended that he “would have earned a lot more if I had continued to be a full-time sailor.”

The staunch environmentalist said he had always told his party that he saw himself as an “advocate of saving the ocean from plastic more than as a member of parliament.”

But in the face of a growing outcry, M5S leaders issued a firm statement telling the sailor that he must step down “if he wishes to continue overlooking the mandate given to him by citizens.

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Yet the accomplished sailor may have one party member whose support he can count on.

On Monday, Davide Casaleggio, son of one of the M5S founders, suggested that in a matter of years parliament itself may be “useless”.

He told Italian daily La Verita that the internet and evolving technologies were providing new tools for direct participation.

“Representative democracy will inevitably become obsolete,” he insisted.

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