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Mario Draghi for PM? Italy’s president intervenes after government crisis talks fail

Italy's president is expected on Wednesday to ask former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi to take over as prime minister following the collapse of the government.

Mario Draghi for PM? Italy's president intervenes after government crisis talks fail
Italian President Sergio Mattarella addresses the media on Tuesday evening at the presidential palace. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/POOL/AFP

President Sergio Mattarella's spokesman said he had asked Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, to meet with him for talks on Wednesday, after ruling parties failed to agree on a new government.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?

The announcement came after Italy's ruling parties missed a deadline to reach an agreement on Tuesday, meaning talks on potentially forming a new government had failed.

“At present, there remain differences, in light of which I have not recorded a unanimous willingness to give life to a majority,” said House Speaker Roberto Fico, after meeting with President Sergio Mattarella.

Italy is currently without a prime minister amid a political crisis which has deepened since Conte resigned last week.

Mattarella had given the ruling coalition parties until Tuesday to patch things up with former premier Matteo Renzi's Italia Viva party, which sparked the crisis by withdrawing support.

But talks failed, and the president said he was left with only two viable options.
 
He ruled out snap elections because of the pandemic, and instead said he would help form a “high-profile government that should not identify itself with any political formula”.
 
Mattarella has stressed the urgency of creating a stable government to manage the pandemic, which hit Italy first among European nations and has been devastating.
 
Alongside the ever-mounting death toll, the economy shrank 8.9 percent in 2020 – the biggest contraction since the end of World War II.
 
 
Italy's La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role.

However, Mattarella's office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

PROFILE: Italian president Sergio Mattarella, the country's 'political referee'

Conte had drawn up a 220-billion-euro ($240 billion) recovery plan using the EU funds, but Renzi accused him of using it for vote-winning handouts, rather than addressing long-term structural issues.

The lack of political leadership in recent weeks had sparked concerns about whether Rome could meet the April deadline to submit its spending plans to Brussels.
 
But Draghi, dubbed “Super Mario”, has long been cited by political watchers as the man to see Italy through the coming months.
 
“Thank you president!” tweeted the EU's economy commissioner, former Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, after Mattarella announced his plans.
 
Lorenzo Castellani, a political expert at Rome's Luiss University, said he believed a Draghi-led government would be highly technocratic.
 
“The government programme will be 99 percent occupied by the pandemic and the recovery fund,” he told AFP, adding that it would likely find support among lawmakers.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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