The two leaders of Italy’s ruling populist coalition on Monday threw their support behind the “yellow vest” protesters in neighbouring France.
“Yellow vests, do not weaken!” Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio, who heads the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), wrote in a post on his party’s blog.
He denounced the French government for protecting the elite and the privileged.
Matteo Salvini, his counterpart from the far-right, the anti-immigrant League, also backed the “yellow vest” protesters.
“I support honest citizens protesting against a president who governs against his people,” Salvini said in a statement, while “firmly” condemning recent protest violence.
It’s extremely rare for European leaders to back anti-government protesters in a fellow member state.
The move underscored the increasingly sour relations between Rome and Paris, which have previously clashed over immigration policy, among other issues.
Di Maio offered French protesters the use of their so-called Rousseau platform to improve organisation and “draw up an electoral programme”.
“This system (Rousseau) is made for a horizontal and spontaneous movement such as yours and we would be happy if you want to use it,” Di Maio wrote.
Through its Rousseau internet portal, it gathers the votes of members online to decide its policies, draft legislation and candidates.
The platform is presented by the party as a reflection of its unique commitment to grassroots democracy and a new politics.
But it has been criticised, notably by former members, for its lack of transparency and the leadership’s tight control over its functioning.