RIMINI, Italy (Reuters) - Italy's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, riding high in opinion polls, on Saturday named 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio to lead it into parliamentary elections early next year, which could see the maverick party win national power.
Di Maio, deputy speaker of the chamber of deputies, is the party's most prominent and popular politician and had been groomed for the leadership in recent years by 5-Star's founder, the 69-year-old comedian Beppe Grillo.
Boyish looking and usually immaculately turned out in suit and tie, Di Maio presents a moderate image in striking contrast to the Grillo who is famous for his raucous tirades against Italy's ruling elite.
Grillo, who has so far acted as 5-Star's de facto chief, is now expected to gradually withdraw from the limelight.
Di Maio has taken tough stances on law-and-order and immigration and is widely seen on the right of the party which says traditional left-right labels have no meaning.
He won by a huge margin over seven rivals in an online vote of 5-Star's members held on Thursday and Friday, reflecting the movement's credo of internet-based direct democracy.
His election, announced at the party's annual gathering at in the Adriatic coastal town of Rimini, was considered a formality because the other candidates were all little-known figures, mostly local councillors.
(Reporting by Gavin Jones, editing by Silvia Aloisi)