ROME (AP) — 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.
In a meeting held at Quirinale Palace, Draghi submitted his resignation. 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.
Draghi’s government of national unity imploded Wednesday after members of his uneasy coalition of right, left and populists rebuffed his appeal to band back together to finish the legislature’s natural term and ensure implementation of the European Union-funded pandemic recovery program.
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. Draghi, clearly touched by the applause, repeated a joke that central bank chiefs even 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 and lay the groundwork to make use of the EU’s recovery funds.
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The 5-Stars were the largest vote-getter at the 2018 National Election. They had complained for months about how their priority of minimum income and basic salary was being overlooked. The 5-Stars protested against a confidence vote that was tied to a bill to help Italy through the crisis. Draghi offered to resign for the first time.
Mattarella refused the offer, and instead asked Draghi for a return visit to Parliament to update lawmakers. This he did on Wednesday when he asked Draghi to come back to Parliament and listen to the pleas for unity made by ordinary Italians, who had signed petitions asking him not to leave.
“You don’t have to give the answer to me. You have to give it to all Italians,” he told lawmakers.
Although the next steps weren’t clear, it was suggested that Mattarella might dissolve Parliament following a period for consultations. This would allow for early elections as early as September or October. The legislature’s five-year term had been due to expire in 2023.
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.
Enrico Letta (Democratic leader) was angry at the outcome. He claimed that the Parliament had betrayed Italy, and urged Italians to take part in the elections. “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 was victorious, who had been aiming for early elections since the beginning of crisis.
“The will of the people is expressed in one way: by voting. Let’s give hope and strength back to Italy,” she said.
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