Feb 3, 2021 - World

Mario Draghi accepts mandate to form Italy's next government

Matarella (with his back to the camera) receives Draghi for consultations. Photo: Handout via Getty Images.

Mario Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, has accepted a mandate from Italy's president to form a national unity government.

Why it matters: Italy's government collapsed last week over a dispute about the disbursement of recovery funds from the EU, and the popular prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has been unable to cobble together a parliamentary majority. That task now falls to Draghi, with an election looming if he fails.

The big picture: Italians voted overwhelmingly for populist parties in 2018, but with two wobbly coalitions having come and gone — and no votes having been cast — the ultimate establishment technocrat is now poised to take power.

  • The events have been dramatic but, in the context of Italy's chaotic politics, not particularly unusual. Conte's 2.5-year tenure is actually longer than most recent Italian prime ministers have managed.
  • He was an obscure law professor until 2018, elevated to prime minister not by voters but by two populist parties — Five Star and the League — searching for a figure they could both accept.
  • Conte survived their divorce in 2019 to form a new center-left government, and his stature grew during the pandemic as he ordered Europe’s first lockdown and lobbied for relief funds from the EU. His approval rating currently sits at 59%.
  • But his government fell after a small party led by former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew, and his efforts to put it back together over the past week have ended in failure.

Driving the news: President Sergio Mattarella asked Draghi on Wednesday to attempt to form a government so as to avoid snap elections during the pandemic. He accepted.

  • Draghi, who is best known for pledging "whatever it takes" to save the Euro after the financial crisis, still has a challenge ahead to win the support of enough parliamentarians to govern.
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