ROME (AP) — Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi offered to step down on Thursday after a populist coalition ally refused to back a key government bill, but the country’s president rejected the resignation, asking Draghi to see if he could still find a majority in Parliament willing to support him.
Draghi’s broad unity coalition government – which includes right, left, center and populist 5-Star Movement parties – was designed to help Italy recover from the coronavirus pandemic. He took office in February 2021.
Hours earlier Thursday, Draghi and his government won a vote of confidence, 172 to 39, in the Senate despite the 5 Star Movement’s refusal to back the bill, which included 26 billion euros (dollars) to help consumers and industries grappling with soaring prices. energy price. But the snub, orchestrated by 5-star leader Giuseppe Conte, Draghi’s predecessor, did some damage.
Shortly before heading to the presidential palace in the Quirinal to hand in his resignation, Draghi declared: “The majority of national unity that has supported this government since its creation no longer exists.
But President Sergio Mattarella told Draghi to return to parliament and see if he could still garner strong support, a palace statement said, adding that the resignation had not been accepted.
The next showdown in parliament is scheduled for July 20, when Draghi will formally present his support ahead of a vote of confidence – this time not on a specific bill but on the very viability of his government.
“On Wednesday, in Parliament, before the nation, each political force must assume its responsibilities,” said the Democratic Party whip in the lower house of Parliament, Debora Serracchiani.
In Brussels, the European Union’s finance commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister, said officials there were “watching with worried astonishment” the potential collapse of Draghi’s coalition.
The uncertainty over Draghi’s stamina also seemed to rattle the markets. The Milan Stock Exchange lost 3.44% on Thursday.
If Draghi fails to muster enough support to carry out his economic reforms, Mattarella could unplug parliament, paving the way for a snap election as early as late September. Currently, the term of Parliament expires in the spring of 2023.
Mattarella had tapped the former head of the European Central Bank – who was known as ‘Super Mario’ for his ‘no matter what’ bailout of the euro – to pull Italy out of the pandemic and lay the groundwork for using billions in the European Union’s pandemic recovery fund.
The 5 stars, who lost significant support in recent local elections and plummeted in opinion polls, are in disarray. Diehard 5-star lawmakers who were skeptical of joining Draghi’s government last year have complained that their interests have been ignored.
In the measure on Thursday, the 5-stars opposed a provision allowing Rome to operate a rubbish incinerator on the outskirts of the chronically trash-choked Italian capital.
During the debate, several senators lambasted Conte’s decision to boycott the vote by 5-star senators.
Being in government “is not like picking a menu and deciding, antipasto, no, gelato, yes,” said Emma Bonino, who leads a small pro-Europe party.
Others noted that Draghi has become a pivotal figure in Europe as Russia wages war on Ukraine, especially with the imminent departure of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Draghi ruled with the support of virtually all of Italy’s major parties except for the burgeoning far-right Italian Brotherhood party. The potential implosion of Draghi’s coalition has sparked new demands, from party leader Giorgia Meloni, for a snap election which she hopes will be her stepping stone to becoming the country’s first female prime minister. ‘Italy.
Giovanni Orsina, professor of history and director of the school of government at LUISS University in Rome, correctly predicted that Mattarella would ask Draghi to find a new viable majority.
“We have the pandemic, we have the war, we have the inflation, we have the energy crisis. So it’s definitely not a good time,” Orsina said. “Mattarella rightly believes that its mission is to safeguard stability.”
One of Draghi’s achievements has been to keep Italy on track with the reforms the EU forced on the country to receive 200 billion euros (dollars) in recovery aid in case of pandemic. Much of this EU funding is already allocated, suggesting it will not be wasted even amid government instability.
Nicole Winfield and Paolo Santalucia contributed.
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