ROME: Italian Premier Mario Draghi resigned Thursday after key coalition allies boycotted a confidence vote, signaling the likelihood of an early election and a renewed period of uncertainty for Italy and Europe at a critical time, reports AP.
Draghi tendered his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella during a morning meeting at the Quirinale Palace. Mattarella, who had rejected a similar resignation offer last week, “took note” this time around and asked Draghi’s government to remain on in a caretaker fashion, the president’s office said.
Instead, the center-right parties of Forza Italia and the League and the populist 5-Star Movement boycotted a confidence vote in the Senate, in a clear sign they were done with Draghi’s 17-month government.
“Thank you for all the work done together in this period,” Draghi told the lower Chamber of Deputies before he went to see Mattarella. Clearly moved by the applause, he repeated a quip that even central bank chiefs have hearts.
Italian newspapers on Thursday were united in their outrage at the surreal outcome, given Italy is dealing with soaring inflation and energy costs, Russia’s war against Ukraine and outstanding reforms needed to clinch the remainder of the EU’s 200 billion euros in recovery funds.
“Shame,” headlined La Stampa on the front page. “Italy Betrayed,” said La Repubblica. “Farewell to Draghi’s Government,” said Corriere della Sera.
Mattarella had tapped the former European Central Bank chief — who was known as “Super Mario” for his “whatever it takes” rescue of the euro — to pull Italy out of the pandemic last year and lay the groundwork to make use of the EU’s recovery funds.
Mattarella rejected the offer then and asked Draghi to return to Parliament to brief lawmakers on the situation. He did that on Wednesday in appealing to party leaders to listen to the calls for unity from ordinary Italians who signed petitions asking him to stay on.
“You don’t have to give the answer to me. You have to give it to all Italians,” he told lawmakers.
While the next steps were unclear, the outcome suggested Mattarella could dissolve Parliament after a period of consultations, paving the way for an early election as soon as late September or early October. The legislature’s five-year term had been due to expire in 2023.
Mattarella was due to meet with the presidents of the upper and lower chambers of Parliament later Thursday, his office said. Such consultations usually precede a public statement from Mattarella about his intentions.
Opinion polls have indicated neck-to-neck percentages for the center-left Democratic Party and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, which had remained in the opposition to Draghi’s coalition.
Democrat leader Enrico Letta was enraged out the outcome, saying Parliament had betrayed Italy and urging Italians to respond at the polls. “Let Italians show at the ballot that they are smarter than their representatives,” he tweeted.
The Brothers of Italy has long been allied with the center-right Forza Italia of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi and the League of Matteo Salvini, suggesting that a center-right alliance would likely prevail in any election and propel Brothers’ leader Giorgia Meloni to become Italy’s first female premier.
Meloni, who has been gunning for an early election since before the crisis erupted, was triumphant.
“The will of the people is expressed in one way by voting. Let’s give hope and strength back to Italy,” she said.