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Italy's president refuses prime minister Mario Draghi's resignation amid coalition chaos

The political crisis could trigger snap elections.

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi in Rome last month.
Italian prime minister Mario Draghi in Rome last month.
Image: Massimo Di Vita

Updated Jul 14th 2022, 7:06 PM

ITALY’S PRESIDENT SERGIO Mattarella has refused to accept Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation, in a political crisis experts warned could send the eurozone’s third largest economy to snap elections.

Mattarella “did not accept the resignation, and invited the prime minister to appear before parliament to make a statement,” the presidential palace said, amid reports Draghi would address parliament next week to see if he has the necessary majority to stay on.

Draghi earlier told his Cabinet he would offer his resignation to the president today, following the refusal of coalition ally the Five Star Movement to participate in a confidence vote

“The majority of national unity that has sustained this government from its creation doesn’t exist any more,” Draghi said in a statement released by his office.

Formerly anti-establishment Five Star (M5S), headed by former premier Giuseppe Conte, has been haemorrhaging support in the polls and parliamentarians, hurt by policy U-turns and internal divisions.

The decision to sit out the vote – which political experts say is a tactical attempt to win back grassroots support ahead of the scheduled 2023 general election – could push Draghi’s already fractured coalition to collapse.

It could even bring forward national elections to later this year.

The government survived today’s confidence vote, but Draghi had previously warned on multiple occasions he would not carry on as premier without Five Star support.

Draghi met with Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella directly after the vote.

The vote was called on an aid package worth about €23 billion, designed to help combat rampant inflation. But it also included a provision to allow a garbage incinerator to be built in Rome – something the Five Star has long opposed.

The far-right has seized on the tensions, with both the anti-immigrant League – part of Draghi’s coalition – and the opposition Brothers of Italy party saying new elections should be called.

Neither is likely to be keen to support a caretaker government, or a Draghi government without the Five Star in it, political analysts believe.

The Milan stock market closed down three percent after the political turbulence.

Draghi was appointed prime minister in February 2021 by Mattarella and charged with carrying out key reforms required under the EU’s largest tranche of post-pandemic recovery funds – a package worth approximately €200 billion for Italy.

The government has since found itself embroiled in the war in Ukraine, taking a strong, pro-EU line, while battling soaring inflation at home.

Draghi’s support of Ukraine, which includes sending weapons and backing EU sanctions, won a parliamentary confidence vote in June despite criticism from Conte that the policy risked fuelling an arms race.

Five Star won legislative elections in 2018 with an unprecedented third of the vote but is now facing an uncertain future with major internal fractures and is now polling at 11%.

Last month, the party – which had represented the largest in parliament – split, with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio starting a breakaway group.

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