Italy: Gov’t collapse averted as president refuses PM resignation

PM Mario Draghi had offered his resignation after the 5-Star Movement boycotted a crucial vote in parliament.

Carabinieri paramilitary police officers stand outside the Quirinale Palace on the day Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi's coalition government risks collapse after the 5-Star Movement failed to support a parliamentary confidence vote, in Rome, Italy,
Carabinieri police officers outside the Quirinale Palace in Rome - residence of the president - as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi's coalition government came close to collapse on July 14, 2002 [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has refused Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s offer of resignation insisting that the prime minister first return to Parliament next week to assess his government’s support.

Draghi had announced his plan to resign on Thursday after the Five Star Movement, a coalition partner, declined to back him in a confidence vote over a bill to combat soaring prices in the Italian economy.

“The national unity coalition that backed this government no longer exists,” Draghi said, announcing his resignation.

“I would like to announce that I will hand over my resignation to the President this evening,” Draghi said, according to a statement from the presidency office.

“I have always said that this executive would have continued only if there was a clear prospect of being able to carry out the government programme on which the political forces had voted their confidence … these conditions do not exist any more,” he added.

Draghi’s broad unity coalition government – which includes parties from the right, the left, the centre and the populist Five Star Movement – was designed to help Italy recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

President Mattarella’s move on Thursday averted the coalition government’s collapse after the Five Star Movement boycotted a critical parliamentary vote which underscored Draghi’s lack of a majority to govern.

Draghi is expected to speak to lawmakers next Wednesday where he might insist on his intention to resign, or set new political conditions for the continuation of the government.

If a solution is not found during that meeting, Mattarella could then pull the plug on parliament, setting the stage for an early election as soon as late September.

Currently, the parliament’s term expires in early 2023.

Italy’s left-leaning Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva reacted quickly to the news of Draghi’s notice to resign announcing their willingness to back a new majority in parliament – without the Five Star Movement – in order to guarantee Draghi a second mandate.

The far-right Brothers of Italy party, led by Giorgia Meloni, and the League party called for elections. Meloni’s party is currently enjoying strong popular support.

Translation: #Election immediately. Follow me live!

The near collapse of Draghi’s government came as Italy attempted to secure billions in EU funding to tackle a dire drought hitting Italy and as the country sought to find a way to reduce its dependency on Russian gas.

Draghi, a former chief of the European Central Bank who is also known as “Super Mario”, was invited by President Mattarella to lead the country in 2021 as Italy faced a COVID-19 pandemic recovery and amid efforts to push forward the reforms necessary to receive EU funds for post-pandemic economic initiatives.

Giovanni Orsina, a history professor and director of the school of government at Rome’s LUISS university, correctly predicted that Mattarella would ask Draghi to find 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.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies