Mario Draghi has accepted a request from the Italian president to attempt to form a government of national unity as the country struggles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and the most severe economic crisis in its post-war history.
Mr Draghi, a former president of the European Central Bank who has built a reputation as one of the continent’s most renowned public officials, on Wednesday called for unity before entering political consultations with political parties in the country after receiving a mandate from Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
“I thank the President of the Republic for the confidence he has placed in me. This is a difficult time, ”Draghi said in a brief speech at the country’s presidential palace, stressing the extent of the task that awaits the third largest economy in the euro zone.
“Conquering the pandemic, finishing the vaccination campaign, offering answers to citizens, relaunching the country: these are the challenges we face,” he said.
Mr Draghi, who has no history in electoral politics, was propelled onto the political scene at a time when Italy recorded more than 88,000 deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He must now attempt to gain enough support among lawmakers across the country to form a new unity government. Failure to meet that target would in all likelihood trigger a snap election which Mattarella said would lead to significant uncertainty amid the pandemic.
Mr Draghi said he was convinced that a “responsible response” would emerge after consultations with leaders of Italian political parties as he tried to forge a new coalition.
He also made explicit reference to the “extraordinary EU resources” available to Italy as a result of the € 200 billion in loans and grants the country is expected to receive as part of the post-pandemic recovery fund. block.
The ex-ECB president was recruited by Mr Mattarella after attempts to revive a coalition led by ex-prime minister Giuseppe Conte collapsed this week, leaving the country without a stable government at most strong of a serious national crisis.
Mr Draghi must now begin consultations with parties across the political spectrum in Italy, some of whom face painful decisions about whether to support his eventual government even if it could provoke a political backlash among their supporters.
To get a majority, he will almost certainly have to convince one of the parties of the Anti-Migrant League, led by Matteo Salvini, or the former Anti-Euro Five Star Movement to support him.
Salvini on Wednesday did not rule out supporting a Draghi government, but said it would be conditional on proposed policies.
Yet Mr Salvini has repeatedly called for new general elections, which would allow him to capitalize on his party’s strength in national opinion polls.
“For us, supporting Draghi would be an effort and a big bet,” League deputy Edoardo Rixi told the Financial Times. “On the one hand, we appreciate his skills, on the other hand, we fear a government that does not protect the national interest. This is the dilemma that concerns not only the League, but the entire center-right. “
Vito Crimi, the acting leader of the Five Star Movement, on Tuesday ruled out supporting a technocratic government led by Mr Draghi. However, several Five Star lawmakers have said the party is strongly divided on the issue and could potentially divide.
“For the five-star movement, going to the elections after supporting the Draghi government would mean dropping below 10 percent in the polls,” said a five-star lawmaker.
Italy’s center-left Democratic Party and Italia Viva, the small spin-off party led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, are considered certain to support the former ECB president.
Daniela Sbrollini, a Member of Parliament for Italia Viva, said she believes Mr Draghi is very likely to gain enough support to form a government. “There will be a Draghi majority and it will be between the parties,” she said.
“Mario Draghi represents authority, the most pro-European choice that can be made, and therefore a guarantee in the eyes of Europe and the world. Such a prestigious character will allow us to start over and turn a new page with a strong pro-European and political imprint.