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  • Schuyler Beltrami

Italian PM Draghi resigns

A surprise political move came from Italy on Thursday, July 21, when the reigning Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi, announced his resignation. It was his second attempt to resign in the past week, after his first letter of resignation was not accepted by the President of Italy. Snap elections to replace Mr. Draghi, who will stay on in a caretaker role, will be held in the fall of this year.

PM Draghi, a close supporter of Ukraine, visiting Kyiv this year. (Photo: Ukrainian Government)

Draghi resigns after 18 months as PM

After a term of only 18 months, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation was formally announced yesterday. Mr. Draghi, 74, had led a broad coalition of mostly right-wing parties in a country where the political landscape is increasingly fragmented and radical. The immediate cause of the resignation was the breakdown in support among members of his broad coalition, most notably the populist Five-Star Movement party. The Five-Star Movement is the second-largest party in Parliament, with a total of 104 seats in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and was central to the cohesion of Mr. Draghi’s government. The reason for the Five-Star Movement’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition was disagreement over a batch of economic aid policies, which aimed to offset rising energy prices in Italy. Further, the Five-Star party had also criticized the response of Mr. Draghi’s government to the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine and the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Italian President, Sergio Mattarella, asked Mr. Draghi to remain on as a caretaker prime minister until snap elections can be held in the fall.

The World’s “Second Greatest Leader”

Mario Draghi was a lifelong banker and politician whose nomination to the top job in Italy’s government was a breath of fresh air for many both within the country and in Europe. Former President of the European Central bank from 2011-2019, Mr. Draghi was chosen to form a government of national unity, rather than being elected to the post, in February of 2021. Highly rated in domestic opinion polls and a close ally to the European Union in Brussels, Mr. Draghi was lauded by international publications. The Economist named Italy their “Country of the Year” in 2021 and Forbes earlier had named him the “Second Greatest Leader” in the world. Despite his skill, especially in the fields of economics and diplomacy, his popularity, and his steady leadership, his wide-ranging coalition of conservative parties began to crack as stresses from inflation, high energy prices, and the war in Ukraine sowed disagreements between the various coalition parties. Feeling the pressure of a crumbling coalition, Mr. Draghi tendered his first resignation on July 14, 2022, but this resignation was rejected by the President of Italy, as Mr. Draghi had been able to pull off a victory in a vote of no confidence in the Italian parliament. A second vote of no confidence, which Mr. Draghi himself had called in order to prove the strength of his coalition and rally the individual parties together, ultimately failed, finalizing the complete breakdown of his coalition. The same day, he tendered his second resignation, this one being accepted by the President.

Political Uncertainty in a Country Known for Political Instability

Where the future of the Italian government is going is largely unknown in the aftermath of the resignation of Mario Draghi. In a country notorious for a “revolving door” of governments and Prime Ministers, it can be hard for any one party or personality to grab firm hold of the Italian political scene. With no fewer than 17 parties represented in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, the task of coalition building after the snap elections due to the be held in September could take weeks or even months. The current party with the most seats, the populist, Eurosceptic Lega Nord, is currently polling in third place according to Politico, with approximately 15% of likely voters showing their support for the party. In first place is the Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), a far-right, national conservative party, who is polling at approximately 23%. The Brothers of Italy party currently only has 37 seats in Parliament, but as one of the few right-wing parties outside of the ruling government, their ability to offer concrete alternatives from the side of the opposition has made them a popular choice among likely Italian voters. Finally, on the left side of the political spectrum, the Partito Democratico, or Democratic Party, a center-left, catch-all party is polling very closely with the Brothers of Italy and symbolizes the only real choice for Italian voters who do not identify themselves with populist and Eurosceptic movements.

The general election to replace Mario Draghi is scheduled for September 25.

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