Mario Draghi (picture) is on track to form a new Italian government after the former head of the European Central Bank won initial backing of some of the biggest parties.
Draghi will start a second round of talks with parties on Monday and is expected to meet trade unions and business lobbies. Assuming the talks go well, Draghi could announce his cabinet picks this week before facing confidence votes in both houses of parliament.
The former governor of the Bank of Italy secured support from parties across Italy’s political divide in initial talks last week. Draghi, 73, was tapped earlier this month to end a political impasse after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned over the defection of a key ally and failed to muster enough support to form a new government.
Draghi will have his work cut out for him as he tries to steer the country out of the pandemic and relaunch an economy that contracted more than 9% last year due to fallout from the virus. Italy is due to receive 200 billion euros ($241 billion) in pandemic aid from the European Union, but it was political differences over how to spend those funds that contributed to Conte’s fall.
The near unanimous support for Draghi marks a fast turnaround for a country where allies in the same ruling coalition were constantly bickering and the opposition demanded a snap vote almost daily. President Sergio Mattarella took the political establishment somewhat by surprise last week he asked the famed ex-central banker to become prime minister.
It’s been an early test for Italy’s next leader, who needs to bring together something resembling a national unity government.
The left-leaning Five Star Movement, the biggest party in the lower house, and Matteo Salvini’s League, the right-wing party most voters now prefer, both signaled support for Draghi despite initial misgivings. They added their numbers to those of moderate, pro-European parties. Only the far-right Brothers of Italy party may end up staying out of the coalition.
More than half of Italians would like Draghi to remain in power until 2023, when the next general election is due, according to a Demos poll published by La Repubblica on Sunday.
Italy has a tradition of handing the reins of power to so-called technocrats when it faces complete political gridlock. The premier will often reach outside of the political arena in choosing senior government ministers.
Draghi hasn’t spoken publicly since taking up the challenge on Feb. 2. He’s kept his cards close to his chest as far as his cabinet picks in his talks with the parties.
The broad support for Draghi may complicate his efforts to form a cabinet if he seeks to spread his picks across several parties. A government without representatives of the major parties risks quickly becoming the target of political sniping. That was the case with Italy’s last technocratic government led by former EU Commissioner Mario Monti, whose short-lived administration ran from 2011 to 2013.
Mattarella and Draghi are under pressure to get a new government off the ground quickly. The next administration will have to draw up a plan for investments and economic reforms to ensure Italy receives its full share of EU aid. A list of projects must be submitted to the European Commission by the end of April, though the commission may have some room for flexibility.