ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned on Thursday after key coalition allies boycotted a confidence vote, signaling the likelihood of a snap election and a new period of uncertainty for Italy and the EU. Europe at a critical moment.
Draghi tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella during a morning meeting at the Quirinal Palace. Mattarella, who rejected a similar resignation offer from the prime minister last week, “took note” of the news and asked Draghi’s government to stay in place on an interim basis, the president’s office said.
Draghi’s national unity government imploded on Wednesday after members of his uneasy coalition of right, left and populists rejected his call to regroup to complete the natural mandate of the Italian parliament and ensure the implementation of a pandemic recovery program funded by the European Union.
Instead, the center-right Forza Italia and League parties and the populist 5 Star Movement boycotted a vote of confidence in the Senate, a clear sign that they were partners in the former Bank chief’s 17-month government. Central European.
“Thank you for all the work done together during this period,” Draghi told the Lower House of Deputies on Thursday morning before going to see Mattarella. Visibly moved by the applause he received there, he repeated a quip that even central bank chiefs have heart.
Italian newspapers on Thursday were united in outrage at the surreal outcome, as Italy grapples with soaring inflation and energy costs, Russia’s war on Ukraine and the ongoing reforms needed to secure the remainder of the EU’s €200 billion recovery fund.
“Shame”, headlined La Stampa on the front page. “Italy betrayed”, said La Repubblica. “Farewell to Draghi’s government,” said Corriere della Sera.
Mattarella has tapped Draghi – who earned the nickname ‘Super Mario’ during his tenure at the European Central Bank for his ‘all it takes’ bailout of the euro – to be Italy’s prime minister the year last. He and his unity government have been tasked with pulling the country out of the pandemic and laying the groundwork to use EU recovery funds.
But the 5 Stars, the biggest vote-giver in the 2018 national election, had been chafing for months that their priorities of a basic income and minimum wage, among other agenda items, be ignored. The movement also opposed Italy’s military aid to Ukraine. The 5-stars last week boycotted a vote of confidence tied to a bill to help Italians weather a cost-of-living crisis, prompting Draghi’s first bid to resign.
Mattarella then rejected the offer and asked Draghi to return to parliament to brief lawmakers on the situation. He did so on Wednesday, calling on party leaders to heed pleas for unity from ordinary Italians who have signed petitions asking him to stay.
“You don’t have to give me the answer. You have to give it to all Italians,” he told lawmakers.
While next steps were unclear after Draghi’s second resignation, the collapse of his governing coalition suggested that Mattarella could dissolve parliament after a period of consultations, paving the way for snap elections as early as late September or early october. The current five-year term of the legislature is due to expire in 2023.
Mattarella planned to meet the speakers of the upper and lower houses of parliament later Thursday, his office said. These consultations usually precede a public statement by Mattarella of its intentions.
Opinion polls showed neck and neck percentages for the centre-left Democratic Party and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, which remained in opposition to Draghi’s coalition.
Democratic leader Enrico Letta said parliament had betrayed Italy and urged Italians to answer the ballot box. “Let the Italians show on the ballot that they are smarter than their representatives,” he tweeted.
Italy’s Brothers have long been allied with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League, suggesting that a centre-right alliance would likely prevail in any election and propel the leader of the Giorgia Meloni brothers to become Italy’s first female prime minister.
Meloni, who had been aiming for a snap election since before the crisis erupted, triumphed.
“The will of the people is expressed in one way: by voting. Let us restore hope and strength to Italy,” she said.
Some commentators have noted that Draghi’s government, which has been one of Ukraine’s strongest European supporters against Russia, has collapsed largely thanks to political leaders who previously had ties to Russian President Vladimir. Cheese fries.
Berlusconi vacationed with Putin and considered him a friend; Salvini opposed EU sanctions on Russia after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, and 5-star leader Giuseppe Conte opposed Italian military aid to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.
After 5-star senators boycotted last week’s vote, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio accused Conte of giving Putin a present by “serving Draghi’s head on a silver platter “.
Perhaps coincidentally, Italian energy giant ENI reported that Russia’s Gazprom was significantly increasing its daily gas deliveries to Italy on Thursday, to 36 million cubic meters from 21 million cubic meters in recent days.