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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.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

Cedric Richmond: We won't wait on GOP for "insufficient" stimulus

Top Biden adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" the White House believes it has bipartisan support for a stimulus bill outside the Beltway.

  • "If our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we are not going to do that."

The big picture: The bill will likely undergo an overhaul in the Senate after House Democrats narrowly passed a stimulus bill this weekend, reports Axios' Kadia Goba.

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