Italy heads for snap election after Draghi coalition fails

ROME (AP) — Italy is heading for a snap election after its president on Thursday accepted Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation and decided there was no way to cobble together another government after the rapid collapse of the ruling coalition.

The demise of Draghi’s coalition in the eurozone’s third-largest economy and uncertainty over what Italian voters will decide at the polls has dealt a destabilizing blow to the country and Europe amid rising inflation. inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Dissolving parliament “is always the last choice to make, especially if, as at the moment, there are important tasks to be carried out”, President Sergio Mattarella said in a brief speech at the presidential palace of the Quirinal, where Draghi had handed in his resignation hours. earlier.

Mattarella’s office said the elections will be held on September 25.

He called on political parties in their campaign to keep in mind “the higher interests” of the nation. Citing soaring food and energy prices, he noted that those who suffer the most are always the weakest in society.

“The period we are going through does not allow us to stop to determine the interventions in the face of the economic and social crisis, and in particular the rise in inflation, which has serious consequences for families and businesses”, he said. -he declares.

Draghi remained at Mattarella’s request in a watchdog role, ensuring that the government could implement basic measures in the months before a new coalition was put in place.

But with Italy’s political parties often bickering, it could be weeks before a new government is in place. After the 2018 parliamentary elections, it took 90 days for a new government to be sworn in.

Parliament’s five-year term would have expired in March 2023, so elections would effectively take place just six months in advance.

Mattarella noted the bad timing for the nation and the continent. But he said he had no choice after Wednesday night when three key parties in Draghi’s “unity” coalition refused to renew their support in a confidence vote.

“The debate, the vote and the way that vote was cast yesterday in the Senate highlighted the lack of parliamentary support for the government and the lack of prospects for bringing a new majority to life” in parliament, the president said. . .

Mattarella had rejected a similar resignation offer of Draghi a week earlier.

Instability in Italy could spill over to Europe, also facing economic problems. Draghi had gained statesmanship as the European Union struggled to maintain a united front against Russia, whose natural gas is heavily imported by Italy and other countries.

Draghi encouraged his lame cabinet to stay focused on Italy’s pressing issues.

“Italy has everything (necessary) to be strong, authoritarian, credible” in the world. Draghi said. The government must deal with the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, inflation and energy costs, as well as pursue the prescribed economic reforms, he said.

In the meantime, “let’s get back to work,” he added.

The former president of the European Central Bank was hired by Mattarella 17 months earlier to guide Italy’s recovery after its economy was hit by COVID-19.

But this week his coalition was sabotaged by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia and two major parties, Matteo Salvini’s Right-wing League and the 5-Star Populist Movement led by Draghi’s predecessor in office. of Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte. .

In a brief speech to the Lower House of Deputies on Thursday before renewing his resignation bid, Draghi appeared moved by the applause from lawmakers there, joking that even central bank chiefs had hearts.

Nicknamed “Super Mario” for helping pull the euro zone out of its debt crisis when he led the ECB, Draghi has played a similar calming role in Italy in recent months. His presence helped reassure financial markets about the indebted nation’s public finances, and he managed to keep the country on track with the economic reforms the EU had made a condition of its 200-year pandemic recovery plan. billion euros (-dollar).

He was a staunch supporter of Ukraine, even as the leaders of the 5 Stars and the League, two forces long sympathetic to Russia, appeared to waver in their support for supplying arms to Kyiv. Draghi became a leading voice in Europe’s response to the February 24 Russian invasion.

A photo of Draghi chatting with French and German leaders on a train to Kyiv quickly became Italy’s iconic image as one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters. He had lobbied for the country’s application for EU membership.

Although he could not keep his coalition restless, Draghi still appeared to enjoy broad support among Italians, many of whom have taken to the streets or signed open letters in recent weeks begging him to stay.

Nicola Nobile, associate director of Oxford Economics, has warned that Draghi’s departure and the wait for a new government could deepen economic turmoil in Italy, which investors fear is too indebted and which was already eyeing a slowdown. marked for the second half of the year.

Opinion polls have indicated that the centre-left Democratic Party and the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, which had remained in opposition, are neck and neck.

Frères d’Italie has long been allied with the forces of Berlusconi and Salvini. If they remain united in an election campaign, it could lead the right to power. Giorgia Meloni, who leads the Brothers in Italy, is eager to become the country’s first female prime minister.

“The will of the people is expressed in only one way: by voting. Let us restore hope and strength to Italy,” she said.

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