Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will resign today after a party in his coalition government did not participate in a confidence vote, plunging the country into political crisis.
It will be up to President Sergio Mattarella to accept or reject Draghi’s resignation, but if the government crisis can’t be resolved quickly, Mattarella could pull the plug on Parliament – setting the stage for an election as early as September.
‘I will tender my resignation to the president of the republic this evening,’ Draghi told the cabinet, according to a statement released by his office. ‘The national unity coalition that backed this government no longer exists.’
Draghi won the confidence vote in the Senate but his pandemic unity government collapsed after the populist 5-Star Movement boycotted the vote.
The vote was 172-39 on a relief bill to help Italians facing soaring energy costs, but 5-Stars senators were absent after confirming they wouldn’t participate.
Draghi later met with Mattarella to decide on the next steps, with the announcement of his resignation coming after the meeting.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned today after his coalition government collapsed
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi arrives in a car at the presidential palace where he will tender his resignation to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, in Rome, Italy, July 14, 2022
Draghi was appointed prime minister in February 2021 by Mattarella and charged with carrying out key reforms required under the EU’s largest tranche of post-pandemic recovery funds – a package worth approximately 200 billion euros for Italy.
The government has since found itself embroiled in the war in Ukraine, taking a strong pro-EU line, while battling soaring inflation at home.
The prime minister has repeatedly made it clear that the populists were among the coalition partners that signed up to be part of his government last year and that he wouldn’t continue without them.
The president could ask Draghi to go before Parliament in the coming days to seek a formal vote on the government itself, to see if the ranks of squabbling allies would rally around him.
The confidence vote had become a focal point for tensions within Draghi’s government as its parties geared up to fight each other in a national election due by early 2023.
The decision by the 5-Star party to boycott the confidence vote had plunged Italy into political uncertainty and risked undermining efforts to secure billions of euros in European Union funds, tackle a damaging drought and reduce its reliance on Russian gas.
Draghi raised the stakes by saying he would not want to lead a government without 5-Star, who emerged as the largest party in the previous election in 2018 but have since suffered defections and a loss of public support.
It could lead to national elections as early as September or October after other coalition parties said there should be a vote if 5-Star no longer backed the government.
The 5-Star Movement’s Senators were absent for the confidence vote in the Upper House on the government’s aid decree for the cost-of-living crisis, in Rome, Italy, 14 July 202
Mattarella had tapped the former European Central Bank chief – who was known as ‘Super Mario’ for his ‘whatever it takes’ rescue of the euro – to pull Italy out of the coronavirus pandemic and lay the groundwork to make use of billions in European Union pandemic recovery funds.
The 5-Stars had joined Draghi’s broad coalition of national unity, which included parties both on the right and the left.
But the 5-Stars, which have lost significant support in recent years, have been complaining that their interests have been ignored. In the measure voted on Thursday, the 5-Stars opposed a provision to allow Rome to operate a garbage incinerator on the outskirts of the chronically trash-choked Italian capital.
That item was just part of a bill that reduces taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel, as well as extends utility bill relief to hard-pressed Italians, but 5-Star leader and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte cited the provision in announcing late Wednesday that his lawmakers would boycott the vote.
In the debate Thursday, several senators blasted Conte’s decision.
Pictured: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (right) holds the cabinet minister bell next to outgoing Premier Giuseppe Conte, during the handover ceremony at Chigi Palace Premier’s office, in Rome, Italy February 13, 2021 (file photo)
Being in a government ‘is not like picking up a menu and deciding, antipasto, no, gelato, yes,? said Emma Bonino, who leads a tiny pro-Europe party.
Others noted that Draghi had increasing become a pivotal figure in Europe as Russia wages war against Ukraine, especially with the impending departure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
An ally of center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier, argued in the Senate that a collapse of Draghi’s government could trigger ‘the destabilization of Europe.’
‘You’d be doing a favor to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,’ thundered Sen. Antonio Saccone.
Draghi has governed with the support of virtually all of Italy’s main parties, with the exception of the fast-rising far-right Brothers of Italy party, which has demanded that Mattarella pull the plug on Parliament and give Italians a chance at voting in new leaders.
But Giovanni Orsina, a history professor and director of the school of government at Rome’s LUISS university, said Mattarella would want to avoid calling an early election and will likely ask Draghi to go to Parliament to see if he can command a new, workable majority.
‘We’ve got the pandemic, we got the war, we have inflation, we have the energy crisis. So certainly this is not a good moment,’ Orsina said. ‘And also because Mattarella believes, rightly, that his mission is to safeguard stability.’
Among Draghi’s achievements has been keeping Italy on track with reforms that the EU has made a condition for the country to receive 200 billion euros (dollars) in pandemic recovery assistance. Much of that EU funding is already allocated and subject to automatic mechanisms, suggesting the funding won’t be lost, even amid government instability.
‘But of course the fact that Draghi with his prestige, international prestige, is not behind that, is going to have some kind consequences,’ Orsina said.
Italian PM QUITS after coalition government collapses