Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has led a unity government since February 2021, but after members of the Five Star Movement refused to participate in a confidence vote on Thursday, he announced his resignation. This was rejected by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, who asked Draghi to address Parliament this week and see if he can get a majority that will support him. Here's everything you need to know:
Who is Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi?
The 74-year-old is the former president of the European Central Bank, serving from 2011 to 2019. It's been said that Draghi saved the euro, after declaring early on in his tenure that the European Central Bank would do "whatever it takes" to protect it, and he's earned the nickname "Super Mario." Before that, Draghi worked at the World Bank and Goldman Sachs and was governor of Italy's central bank. In the 1970s, he became the first Italian to receive a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In February 2021, after Giuseppe Conte of the Five Star Movement resigned as prime minister, Matarella asked Draghi to form a government of national unity. In less than two weeks, he successfully had a coalition and was named prime minister. The New York Times says Draghi has brought moderate growth to Italy, and in the last 17 months made reforms to the country's justice system and tax code. A strong proponent of the European Union, he also found sources of energy away from Russia. "Along the way," the Times writes, "he made populism unfashionable and competence admirable, and he repositioned Italy as a reliable force for democratic values within Europe."
What parties are in Italy's coalition government?
There are parties from the right, left, and center, and the populist Five Star Movement at one time was the largest in the coalition; over the last year, support for the party has been slipping, and many members have defected, BBC News reports.
Why did members of the Five Star Movement decide to boycott the confidence vote?
The confidence vote was linked to a €26 billion bill that would help people and businesses cover their high energy bills. This measure also included a provision allowing the building of a garbage incinerator in Rome, which The Guardian says the Five Star Movement has long opposed. Conte is now the leader of the Five Star Movement, and Draghi spent several days trying to work out a compromise to get him to support the bill. Draghi ordered a confidence vote on Thursday "in an effort to call ... Conte's bluff," the Times reports, but he went through with the boycott. The government survived the confidence vote, 172 to 39.
Luigi di Maio, a former leader of the Five Star Movement who quit last month and formed his own party, Together for the Future, is accusing the Five Star Movement of trying to bring down Draghi in order to build itself back up and regain supporters. "This crisis was planned in advance," he said in a radio interview on Friday.
Why did Draghi say he would resign?
Draghi previously said he would not lead a government without the Five Star Movement. When announcing his resignation on Thursday, Draghi said he was doing so because "the majority of national unity, which supported this government since its inception, no longer exists." By refusing to accept Draghi's resignation and asking him to speak to Parliament, Mattarella has essentially put the political crisis on pause.
What happens next?
Draghi is expected to address Parliament on Wednesday, and until then, it's a waiting game to see what he does and says. Elections are already set for early 2023, but if he resigns, they will be moved up — and it's expected that center-right and far-right parties will fare well, The Washington Post reports.
A new government wouldn't just affect Italy. Draghi opposed the Russian invasion of Ukraine and pushed for sanctions against Moscow, while also supporting Ukraine eventually joining the European Union. Di Maio said the news of Draghi's attempted resignation was received well in Russia, where "they were making a toast." He added, "Mario Draghi's head was served to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin on a silver plate. Autocracies are toasting and democracies are weaker."