ROME (AP) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Wednesday said spontaneous demonstrations of popular support for his government were “unprecedented and impossible to ignore” as he weighed appeals to overturn his resignation, which were offered after a coalition partner announced a triggered the government crisis.
Draghi laid out priorities for Parliament to take into account in rebuilding the majority “from above” so the government can work efficiently, and indicated he was ready to go ahead if they were adopted. Draghi directly challenged the 5 Star Movement to decide whether or not to be on board after the populists refused to support the government in a vote of confidence last week.
“Are you ready? Are you ready to rebuild this pact? Are you ready?” Thundered Draghi at the end of his speech to the Senate. “You don’t have to give me the answer. You have to give that to all Italians.”
Draghi offered his resignation last week after 5-star senators boycotted a confidence vote. The trigger was their opposition to an incinerator for Rome, which was included in a bill, but their dispute with Draghi’s government went far beyond that.
Draghi had long insisted he would never lead a second government, or one without the 5-Stars, and flatly said last week that he would not govern by ultimatum.
But it seemed the waves of appeals he had to consider from inside and outside Italy were having an effect. In recent days, political leaders, mayors, medical associations and ordinary citizens have urged him to stay put at such a crucial time, when rising inflation and energy prices, a war in Ukraine and the implementation of the EU recovery funds are at stake.
Draghi told the Senate he was personally moved by the spontaneous statements of support, citing in particular the petitions by Italian mayors and medical staff, the “heroes of the pandemic”.
“The mobilization these days by citizens, associations and regions for the continuation of government is unprecedented and impossible to ignore,” he said. “This call for stability requires all of us to decide whether it is possible to restore the conditions in which government can truly govern.”
Despite Draghi’s suggestion that he was open to remaining, there was no clarity as to how the day would play out: After Draghi’s speech, lawmakers will have an opportunity to respond and Draghi will have a chance to respond. There may be some sort of vote later in the day.
From the Presidential Palace on Quirinale Hill, President Sergio Mattarella watched over the scene, who can ultimately decide whether to accept Draghi’s resignation if offered again, whether to ask him or someone else to govern until the spring elections, or whether he will Parliament is now dissolving and is already dissolving in September to trigger early elections.
Mattarella had tasked Draghi in 2021 to form a national unity government grouped with parties from the right, left and the 5-Star to guide Italy through its post-pandemic economic reset and enact reforms needed to implement it funds of around 200 billion euros are required for the reconstruction of the European Union.
The troubled coalition worked for a while, but Draghi offered his resignation last week after the 5-star lawmakers, the biggest voters in the 2018 general election, opted out.
Five-Star leader Giuseppe Conte, who complained that his forces had been humiliated and ignored by other coalition parties, delivered a nine-point set of demands for Draghi to accept, including the flagship 5-Star promise of a basic income and a minimum wage.
Draghi also strongly opposed Conte’s opposition to military support for Ukraine.
Former Prime Minister Mario Monti, himself destined to lead Italy at a moment of crisis, appealed to Draghi’s ego and said the internationally respected former European Central Bank chief would irrevocably damage his legacy if he left Italy now.
“Draghi’s bitterness at the little games played by various parties is perfectly understandable,” wrote Monti on the front page of Corriere della Sera. But he warned that Draghi would “show a lack of respect for the country and its citizens” if he went ahead and resigned.
At the beginning of the day, important parties had staked out their positions: the Democratic Party, which has around 22 percent in the polls and is an important coalition partner, wants Draghi to stay. Center-right coalition partners Forza Italia of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Liga of Matteo Salvini have merely said they will not govern with the 5 stars again.
The 5-Stars themselves are divided, with Conte’s allies poised to back down, but other 5-Star lawmakers said they would remain supportive of Draghi, suggesting further defections from the populist ranks. Italy’s right-wing brothers, who have always been in opposition to Draghi’s coalition, want to go straight to snap elections as they battle the Democrats for the top spot in polls.