Popular Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi was on the brink on Wednesday after three parties refused to back him, thwarting efforts to resolve a crisis that is now expected to lead to his resignation and a snap election.
Italian media reported that Draghi must now offer his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday.
The decision by three parties – Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the Anti-Immigrant League and the populist Five Star Movement – to absent themselves from the vote meant the failure of Draghi’s bid to revive his beleaguered coalition.
Actions by “irresponsible” parties risked “creating a perfect storm”, EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said on Twitter, adding that Italy faces “difficult months ahead”.
Draghi had warned the Senate that now was not the time for uncertainty, amid a myriad of challenges, ranging from a struggling economy and runaway inflation to war in Ukraine.
– ‘Crazy day’ –
But the League and Forza Italia said it was impossible to regain lost confidence after a crisis sparked by Five Star’s decision to withdraw from a confidence vote last week.
“On this day of madness, Parliament has decided to turn against Italy,” Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party, said on Twitter.
Polls ahead of Wednesday’s drama suggested most Italians wanted Draghi, 74, to remain at the helm until a general election due in May next year.
“Draghi’s possible departure would be a blow for Italy and for the EU ahead of a difficult winter,” said Luigi Scazzieri of the Center for European Reform.
– ‘Not easy’ –
His coalition had been able to “put aside divisions and come together… for rapid and effective action, for the good of all citizens”.
Draghi had “reprimanded his coalition partners for infighting and scoring” over the past few months and presented a government line that “contains measures that the League or the Five Star Movement strongly opposes”, said Wolfango Piccoli of consulting firm Teneo in a note. .
Anxious investors were watching closely. The spread – the difference between Italian and German 10-year Treasuries – widened to 215 points at market close.
Originally published as Draghi on his last legs as bid to save Italian government fails