The Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, presented his resignation this Thursday, July 21, to President Sergio Mattarella, who asked him to remain in office as an interim. The president is evaluating the call for early elections, expected between September and October. Draghi resigned after three key parties in his coalition boycotted a confidence vote he called to break down divisions and renew the alliance.
Italy enters a new period of uncertainty and in the midst of a critical moment for Europe.
In a morning meeting at the Quirinale Palace, Prime Minister Mario Draghi presented his resignation on July 21 to President Sergio Mattarella, who had already rejected a similar offer from the premier last week.
However, this time the president accepted his resignation and asked him to continue in office as an interim, until a new government is formed, according to a statement released by the office of the head of state.
Political sources, quoted by Reuters, indicated that the probable steps to follow are the dissolution of Parliament and the call for general elections between the end of next September and the beginning of October.
“Thank you for all the work done together in this period,” Draghi said in a session before the Chamber of Deputies, just before heading to the meeting with Mattarella. Clearly moved by the applause he received there, he joked that even central bank chiefs have hearts, referring to the position he previously held that catapulted him into his country’s politics.
Draghi’s resignation comes despite calls for him to remain in office, including voices from world leaders who see him as a key leader not only to ensure stability in Italy, but as a partner in the region to confront the challenges of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A recent poll indicated that if early elections were held in the country, a coalition led by the far-right Brothers of Italy, and including the League and Forza Italia, could win a majority.
A Government Death Foretold
The current government coalition collapses and Draghi formalizes his departure as prime minister after three key parties in the alliance: the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the extreme right-wing League of Matteo Salvini, and Forza Italia, of Silvio Berlusconi, did not participate on Wednesday, July 20, in a confidence motion in the Senate.
The vote was called by the premier basically to ask the parties to put an end to divisions and bet on cooperation.
Although the prime minister won the motion in the Upper House, the majority of senators did not vote and the withdrawal of his partners left him without the large parliamentary majority he had.
But how did Draghi get to the recent boycott of his allies? The political crisis erupted last week after M5S rejected a vote on a 26 billion euro package designed to help Italians cope with inflation and energy costs.
The M5S, which received the most votes in the 2018 elections, argued that it was insufficient and in recent months has expressed discontent that its political priorities presented to it in a nine-point plan were being ignored. Among them, a basic income bonus scheme and ecological housing.
The Five Star Movement also showed its anger that the economic package promoted by the premier contained a provision to build a huge waste incineration plant in Rome.
Meanwhile, La Liga and Forza Italia had called for a new government led by Draghi, but without the M5S, while demanding a cabinet reshuffle.
The M5S boycott of the financial package prompted Draghi’s first offer to resign, but Mattarella then rejected it, asking the prime minister to return to Parliament to brief lawmakers on the situation. He did so on Wednesday, appealing to party leaders to heed calls for unity from ordinary Italians who have signed petitions asking him to stay.
Backed by a groundswell of public support, the former head of the European Central Bank had attempted to continue his administration on the condition that their alliance “rebuild a trust pact” that would allow them to work together to overcome major challenges in the coming months, but his mission was not achieved.
The Italian press agreed on Thursday to express their outrage at the surreal scenario, as the country grapples with skyrocketing inflation and energy costs, Russia’s war against Ukraine and pending reforms needed to secure the rest of the $200 billion. euros in recovery funds from the European Union (EU).
Draghi had led the enactment of those policies, as well as measures to redress social inequality.
“Shame”, headlined the newspaper ‘La Stampa’, while ‘Italy betrayed’ was the headline on the front page of ‘La Repubblica’ and ‘Goodbye to the Draghi Government’, said ‘el Corriere della Sera’.
Democrat leader Enrico Letta argued that Parliament had betrayed Italy and urged citizens to respond at the polls. “Let the Italians show in the vote that they are smarter than their representatives,” he assured.
Some experts say the Draghi government, which has been one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters in Europe since the conflict broke out, collapsed in large part thanks to political leaders who previously had ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In fact, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and leader of the Forza Italia party considers Putin his friend. For his part, Matteo Salvini, leader of La Liga, opposed EU sanctions against Moscow after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, and 5-star leader Giuseppe Conte opposed military aid. Italian for kyiv to defend itself from the Russian invasion.
The Brothers of Italy have long been allied with the centre-right Forza Italia and the League, suggesting that a right-wing union would likely prevail in any election and propel the Brothers’ leader, Giorgia Meloni, to become the Italy’s female prime minister.
Meloni has been seeking early elections since before the crisis broke out. “The will of the people is expressed in one way: voting. Let us return hope and strength to Italy”, he stated.
Mattarella last year appointed Draghi as prime minister, who earned the nickname “Super Mario” during his tenure at the European Central Bank for his policy of bailing out the euro “whatever it takes.”
The premier’s supporters stress that he and his unity government were in charge of getting the country out of the Covid-19 pandemic and laying the groundwork for making use of EU recovery funds.
With Reuters, AP and local media