Is Mario Draghi staying or is he leaving? And what if he leaves? These questions have been on the minds of Italians for almost a week.
In a speech in the Senate in Rome on Wednesday, the 74-year-old prime minister called on the divided government parties to support him. Then he would refrain from resigning. A little later he announced that he would face a vote of confidence in the smaller of the two chambers of Parliament on Wednesday.
“In these months, national unity was the best guarantee for the democratic legitimacy of this government and its efficiency,” said the independent economist in his speech before the Senate. Draghi, who was never elected by the people, would need the widest possible approval from Parliament.
Draghi explained the political situation in the smaller of the two chambers of parliament on Wednesday after President Sergio Mattarella did not accept an offer from him to resign last Thursday and sent the head of government to the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.
“It needs a new pact of trust that is sincere and correct, like the one that has so far allowed us to change the country for the better,” Draghi said in the Senate. “Parties and you parliamentarians – are you ready to restore this pact?” You also have to take into account the attitude of citizens and associations. Around 2,000 mayors, for example, joined an open letter urging Draghi to continue.
In his uncharacteristically energetic and emotional speech, Draghi recalled what his government had achieved so far. It was created in February 2021 to get the country out of the corona pandemic and the economic crisis.
Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio called Draghi’s words “impeccable, concrete and far-sighted”. Others found her uncompromising. Senator Julia Unterberger from the South Tyrolean People’s Party said there were no signals to the Five Star Movement (centre-left) and Lega (right).
The crisis surrounding Italy’s 67th post-war government has simmered since what was once the largest but now divided party in the alliance – the Five Star Movement (M5S) – refused to endorse an aid program for Italy’s victims of the crisis. But opinions differ about this trigger. M5S party leader Giuseppe Conte, who was also Draghi’s predecessor as prime minister, and his supporters accuse the head of government of having smuggled some topics into the bill without consultation, including environmental projects that the stars found difficult to digest.
Among other things, they had a great success in the parliamentary elections four years ago with environmental policy and their protest against large-scale environmentally harmful projects. In addition, the M5S find that Draghi authoritatively linked the vote on the bill with a vote of confidence, which forced the movement to answer the vote of confidence in the negative as well – even though Draghi wanted to remain in government.
There is no other guarantee for good relations between Rome and Brussels and for a proper end to this turbulent legislative period. However, almost all parties fear early elections. Regular elections will not be held until next spring.
Whether it will be enough by then is more than questionable. Draghi, who turns 75 in September, seems to have had enough of governing in Rome, which is likely to be much more complicated than running a central bank – before the job at the ECB in Frankfurt, the Roman headed his country’s bank, the “Banca d’Italia”.
Marco Travaglio, Italy’s harshest commentator, already scoffed: Anyone who has neither experience nor desire to mediate should not be appointed prime minister of such a complicated coalition. With the exception of Giorgia Meloni’s extreme right-wing “Fratelli d’Italia”, Draghi’s alliance brings together everything that made it into parliament in 2018.
Reluctance to have this job, but perhaps another: When the new president was elected in January, Draghi showed ambitions to crown his brilliant career with the post of head of state. Also because the parties were afraid of losing Draghi as prime minister, 80-year-old Sergio Mattarella, who actually wanted to keep it to one term, was re-elected.
It was the dutiful Mattarella who forced Draghi not to give up and face Parliament just yet. Italy’s presidents have considerable influence if the government collapses.
Possibly, however, the question “Draghi yes or no” is no longer the decisive one. The government he faces is more divided than ever after last week’s vote of confidence. The five stars, after the departure of its co-founder, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, lost a quarter of the MPs, are likely to shrink further.
Many no longer want to go along with the hard line of party leader Conte, starting with the parliamentary group leader in the chamber, Davide Crippa: “If Draghi comes to meet us, it is unjustifiable to withdraw our confidence.” On the right, however, close “Forza Italia” of the aged Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Salvini’s League meanwhile decide to continue ruling with the stars.
The quasi-all-party government of “national unity” has become a completely dispersed bunch, united only by the fear of imminent elections. Salvini, once a popular speaker and Interior Minister in Conte’s first cabinet, is also plucked and has to fear that his clientele will defect to the even more radical Giorgia Meloni, the party leader of “Fratellli d’Italia”. The “brothers” are the only opposition faction. Meloni could become Italy’s first female head of government after the election.