Italy’s Draghi government on brink of collapse as PM offers resignation

The rejection of Draghi’s resignation will create time for Italy’s political class to try to patch together a compromise to prevent the country from being tipped into early elections.

Even though the government comfortably won Thursday’s vote in the Senate, the prime minister had raised the stakes in past days by saying that without Five Star’s support, the government could not continue.

The Italian economy – like most economies worldwide – is struggling to recover from the pandemic, while also being hit afresh by a cost-of-living crisis.Credit:Bloomberg

Elections were due early next year, but Draghi’s resignation means they could be held early as September or October.

The uncertainty comes at a sensitive time for Italy, which is expected to be the largest single recipient of the EU’s €750 billion COVID-19 recovery fund. If the government is unable to pass its budget later this year, it could jeopardise funding.

Five Star was originally the largest party in the coalition, but has seen a string of defections and falling support. Former party leader Luigi di Maio has accused the party of a cynical plan to bring down the Draghi government to revive its own support, while dragging Italy to economic and social collapse.

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As prime minister, Draghi was credited with helping to revive the battered economy and with supervising an effective coronavirus vaccine rollout.

However, his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked new domestic political tensions given Italy’s historically close ties to Moscow.

Draghi took a strong stand against the war and was a driving force in pushing for tough EU sanctions against Moscow. His foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, a member of Five Star, has stood firmly behind him.

But Conte, who preceded Draghi as prime minister, has openly questioned whether military aid to Ukraine was perpetuating the war.

Tensions erupted last month when Di Maio walked out of Five Star, taking about a third of the party’s lawmakers with him, and reaffirming support for Draghi’s government.

Conte said he could no longer support Draghi’s cross-party government, which he accused of not doing enough to help families facing surging food and energy costs.

“I have a strong fear that September will be a time when families will face the choice of paying their electricity bill or buying food,” Conte said.

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