Italian government in limbo as President rejects Prime Minister Draghi’s resignation
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a coalition partner refused to take part in a crucial vote of confidence, which plunged the country into a political crisis.
The nation’s president turned down his offer, leaving the 17-month-old government in limbo, whose survival was being tested by increasingly sharp disagreements within the coalition.
Mr Draghi’s broad coalition government – which includes parties from the right, left, center and the populist 5-Star Movement – should help Italy recover from the corona pandemic.
Hours earlier on Thursday, the prime minister and his government won a confidence vote in the Senate 172-39, despite the 5-Star Movement’s refusal to back the bill, which proposed €26 billion to help consumers and industries that are struggling struggle with rising energy prices. But the dramatic snub, orchestrated by 5-star guide Giuseppe Conte, Mr Draghi’s predecessor, did its damage.
Just before he went to the Quirinal presidential palace to hand in his resignation, the prime minister declared: “The majority of national unity that has sustained this government since its inception no longer exists.”
But President Sergio Mattarella told him to return to Parliament instead and see if he can still garner solid support, a palace statement said.
The next showdown in Parliament is set for July 20, when Mr Draghi will officially solicit support ahead of a confidence vote – this time not over a specific bill but over the viability of his government.
“There are now five days to work for Parliament to reaffirm its confidence in the Draghi government and for Italy to emerge as quickly as possible from the dramatic unraveling of the last few hours,” tweeted Enrico Letta, the leader of the Democratic Party, a Draghi ally and a former prime minister.
In Brussels, European Union finance commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister, said officials there were “watching with concerned astonishment” at the possible failure of Draghi’s coalition.
Uncertainty about Draghi’s staying power also seemed to rock the markets. The Milan Stock Exchange lost 3.44 percent on Thursday.
If Mr Draghi cannot solidly reassemble a lasting coalition, Mr Mattarella could pull the plug on Parliament and set the stage for snap elections as early as late September. Parliament’s term of office currently ends in spring 2023.
Mr Mattarella had tapped the former European Central Bank chief – known as “Super Mario” for his rescue of the euro “whatever it takes” – to pull Italy out of the pandemic and lay the groundwork for spending billions in the European Union to set up pandemic recovery fund.
The 5-Stars, which lost significant support in the recent local elections and plummeted in opinion polls, are in disarray.
In Thursday’s measure, the 5-Stars rejected a provision that would allow Rome to operate an incinerator on the outskirts of the chronically littered Italian capital.
In the debate, some senators hailed Mr Draghi as a key figure in Europe as Russia wages war on Ukraine, especially with Boris Johnson’s imminent departure.
Centre-right Senator Antonio Saccone thundered that the 5-Stars were “doing a favor” for Russian President Vladimir Putin by causing political instability.
Recently, Mr Conte had wavered for a while about continuing to support military aid to Ukraine, but eventually backed Mr Draghi in pledging fresh aid.
Being in government “isn’t like picking up a menu and deciding, antipasti, no, gelato, yes? said Emma Bonino, who heads a tiny pro-Europe party.
Mr Draghi has governed with the support of virtually every major party in Italy, with the exception of the fast-rising far-right Brothers of Italy party. The possible implosion of Mr Draghi’s coalition sparked fresh calls from party leader Giorgia Meloni for snap elections, which she hopes will be her stepping stone to becoming Italy’s first woman prime minister.
Giovanni Orsina, history professor and director of the School of Government at the LUISS University in Rome, correctly predicted that Mr Mattarella would ask Mr Draghi to find a new, workable majority.
“We have the pandemic, we have the war, we have inflation, we have the energy crisis. So this is certainly not a good moment,” Orsina said. “Mattarella rightly believes his mission is to ensure stability.”
Mr Draghi’s achievements include keeping Italy on track with reforms that the EU has made conditional on the country receiving €200 billion in support to deal with the pandemic. Much of this EU funding has already been allocated, suggesting that it will not be lost even if there is government instability.