The expelled senators either voted “no” in a confidence vote or failed to show up to vote on the former European Central Bank chief and his broad-based government of unity that has ministers from the M5S, centre-right and left parties, as well as technocrats leading key ministries.

The expulsions illustrated how Draghi’s appointment has badly split the M5S, which was created as a grass-roots, anti-establishment protest force opposed to the pro-European banking establishment that the new premier represents to many members.

The movement, the biggest vote-getter in Italy’s 2018 general election, nevertheless decided to back Draghi out of a sense of national responsibility, given the crisis posed by the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic devastation.

According to M5S regulations, lawmakers can be expelled if they vote contrary to the positions of the party’s registered members, who are given a say on individual proposals via an online platform that is the hallmark of the movement’s brand of “direct democracy.”

In an online vote last week, 59 per cent of M5S members supported Draghi, swayed in part by his plans to emphasise environmentally sustainable growth policies.

The dissidents argued that backing a technocrat prime minister goes against the group’s ideals and said they could not support a government that included their arch foe, former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (FI) party.