Can the man who saved the euro save Italy?
As everyone would expect of the former President of the ECB, Governor of the Bank of Italy and Executive Director of the World Bank, Mr. Mario Draghi is certainly not new to public speeches. Yet, this time, as he stood in the Senate chamber in Rome, he openly admitted to feeling emotional. “I’d like to tell you that, in my long professional life, there has never been a time of such intense emotion and such ample responsibility”.
After weeks of political whirlwind and some rather unexpected turns of events, from February 17th Mario Draghi is the new Prime Minister of Italy.
Let us try to shed some light on the chain of events that brought Mr. Draghi to the premiership, on the plans he has to lead Italy out of the COVID-19 and economic crises, and on how Italy’s relationship with the EU may change now that a figure of Mr. Draghi’s calibre is at the helm.
The Whirlwind That Brought Draghi to the Premiership
The past months have been nothing short of hectic for the Italian political scene.
The government led by Giuseppe Conte, already widely criticised over its management of the COVID-19 pandemic across the previous months, had been put under severe internal pressure from its own coalition. Matteo Renzi, former Prime Minister himself and leader of the liberal party Italia Viva, directly challenged Mr. Conte over his pandemic response, calling for immediate radical changes to the government’s recovery plan. Following Mr. Conte’s denial, in mid-January Mr. Renzi announced the withdrawal of two Italia Viva ministers from the government cabinet. This truly strategic and calculating political move, defined by many as Machiavellian, opened an official government crisis.
In the following days, the Conte government scrambled to reorganise its allies and ended up obtaining a vote of confidence in both Chamber of Deputies and Senate; however, the margin in the Senate was very slim, very far from an absolute majority. Days and days of consultations aimed at finding some “responsible” senators who could be willing to back the Conte government and round up the numbers in the Senate, so to provide greater legitimacy to the faltering government, proved inconclusive. On January 26th, Giuseppe Conte resigned as Prime Minister, effectively triggering the collapse of the government.