Angela Giuffrida, The Guardian, July 21, 2022
Italy will hold snap elections on 25 September that could see a coalition led by the far-right Brothers of Italy party win a majority, after Mario Draghi’s resignation as prime minister.
Announcing on Thursday that he had signed a decree to dissolve parliament, the Italian president, Sergio Mattarella, said: “The period we are going through does not allow for any pause in the [government] action which is needed to counter the economic and social crisis and rising inflation.”
Draghi confirmed his resignation early on Thursday after an attempt to salvage his broad coalition failed when three key parties snubbed a confidence vote.
Backed by a groundswell of public support, the former European Central Bank chief had attempted to continue his administration on condition that his alliance “rebuild a pact of trust” that would enable it to work together to overcome huge challenges over the coming months.
Draghi formally handed his resignation to Mattarella on Thursday morning and it was accepted.
The populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia did not participate in a confidence vote in the senate on Wednesday night that essentially called for parties to approve a spirit of cooperation.
Based on current polls, the obvious favourite in September’s election is a coalition led by the far-right Brothers of Italy and including the League and Forza Italia. The Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni, is in first place on voter intentions with nearly 24%, ahead of the Democratic party (PD) on 22% and the League on 14%, according to a poll by the SWG institute carried out on Monday. Forza Italia is currently expected to reap about 7% of the vote and M5S 11%.
The polling suggests the PD may be forced to ally with M5S if it is to have a chance at beating the right.
“No more excuses”, tweeted Meloni, 45, who vociferously led the opposition throughout Draghi’s term and has long called for fresh elections.
Getano Azzariti, a constitutional law professor at Rome’s Sapienza University, told Agence France-Presse that Italy’s complex mix of proportional voting and first past the post put the rightwing coalition at a “great advantage”.
Having already decided to present a common candidate, “it is clear that it is the centre-right that will win”, he said, despite differences within that coalition and tensions between Meloni and Salvini.
Should a Brothers of Italy-led coalition win, it “would offer a much more disruptive scenario for Italy and the EU”, wrote Luigi Scazzieri, a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform.
Draghi was Italy’s sixth prime minister in a decade, parachuted into the job in 2021 as Italy wrestled with the Covid pandemic and an ailing economy. He had such wide support in parliament and had such standing abroad that many assumed he would survive the political machinations until the end of his mandate in 2023.
The political crisis was triggered last week after M5S boycotted a vote on a €26bn (£22bn) package designed to help Italians tackle inflation and energy costs, arguing it was insufficient. The party was also unhappy that the package contained a provision to build a huge waste incinerator plant in Rome.
The League and Forza Italia had called for a new Draghi-led government, but without M5S, while demanding a cabinet reshuffle. M5S was annoyed that Draghi had not embraced the policy priorities presented to him in its “nine-point” plan, including a basic income and green homes bonus scheme.
There were calls for Draghi to remain in post, including from world leaders who saw him as fundamental to not only ensuring stability in Italy but as a partner in facing the challenges of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
He had urged unity in order to face challenges such as the Ukraine war, the energy crisis, social inequality and the enactment of reforms needed to obtain the next tranche of the €200bn that Italy is due to receive from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund. He also rebuked his coalition partners for infighting and point-scoring over recent months.