“The coalition of national unity that supported this government no longer exists, as does the trust that was previously the basis of our work,” Draghi explained his resignation to his ministers yesterday evening. In the last few days he has tried to meet the wishes of the individual coalition parties – “but as you can see from today’s vote of confidence, this was not enough”.
Political unity in the coalition is essential to tackle the major challenges the country is facing – but this condition is no longer met, Draghi explained. The Milan Stock Exchange reacted to the government crisis with price losses; interest rates on Italian government bonds rose significantly: the new political instability in Rome is already having its consequences.
After Draghi’s resignation, political destiny is once again in the hands of President Sergio Mattarella. The head of state has initially rejected the resignation. But he could also try to form a so-called “bath government” with another prime minister that would get the country through the summer holidays, decide on the state budget in the fall and then prepare the regular elections in the spring. Ex-Prime Minister Giuliano Amato and Finance Minister Daniele Franco, a close confidant of Draghi, are under discussion as possible interim heads of government.
Mattarella could also try to persuade Draghi to face a new confidence vote in Parliament with either the old coalition or a new one – but Draghi is unlikely to offer hands. After all, Mattarella could put a quick end to the tragic comedy by immediately dissolving parliament and calling new elections. These would take place in late September or early October.
Whatever solution Mattarella will find – one thing is already certain: in the long history of political instability in Italy, the time to trigger a government crisis has seldom been chosen more carelessly than in these hours: A brutal war is raging in Europe, the number of corona cases is shooting up again up, there is a lack of energy and inflation, companies are suffering from supply shortages and agriculture is suffering from the worst drought in living memory. Nevertheless, Mario Draghi’s government collapses – of all things because of a decree with which the consequences of this multiple crisis are to be mitigated with state aid totaling 23 billion euros.
The political crisis in Rome was triggered by Giuseppe Conte, Draghi’s predecessor as head of government and now leader of the Five Star protest movement. “The government must do more in the fight against growing social problems,” said Conte, explaining why the second-largest governing party he led did not take part in the vote of confidence in the Senate.
In this case, Draghi had promised that he would resign as prime minister. “You can’t govern with constant ultimatums from the coalition partners,” said the former President of the European Central Bank, who was appointed by President Sergio Mattarella in February 2021 to head a government of national unity. In Draghi’s eyes, the departure of Conte’s troops in a vote of confidence that is so important for the country was a dangerous precedent: In the future, other governing parties could also agree to government business as they see fit – a scenario that Draghi has good reasons not to get involved in .
In fact, Lega boss Matteo Salvini has publicly opposed decisions by his own government on several occasions: With regard to the parliamentary elections planned for spring 2023, he has long been in campaign mode and increasingly sees Draghi’s reform agenda as a corset. And so after Conte’s announcement that he would not vote in the Senate, Salvini immediately declared that the Lega would no longer support Draghi in this case. Salvini’s competitor in the legal camp, Giorgia Meloni, also called for new elections: “The government is blocked by the parties’ political games. Basta, have mercy, that’s enough,” said the head of the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia, the only opposition party.
The background to the current political crisis is the decline of the two populist parties in Draghi’s coalition government: Both the Five Stars and the Lega suffered devastating defeats in the local elections in mid-June. Above all, the protest movement hopes to regain lost votes by returning to their old, radical demands. Among other things, she calls for the building of what she considers a waste incineration plant in Rome to be abandoned. The planned oven is also included in the anti-crisis decree and was ultimately the real reason why the “Grillini” did not want to approve the bill. As surreal and bizarre as it may sound, Draghi stumbled upon the construction of an incinerator in the capital, which has been choking on its own waste for years.