UPDATE: Draghi to attempt to form new Italian government

Italian economist Mario Draghi appealed for national unity after he agreed on Wednesday to take on the job of forming and leading a new government.

UPDATE: Draghi to attempt to form new Italian government
Mario Draghi arrives at the presidential palace in Rome for talks with President Mattarella on Wednesday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

Draghi, former head of the European Central Bank, said Italy is facing a “difficult moment” after being tasked by President Sergio Mattarella with forming a new government.

“I am confident that… unity will emerge and with it the ability to give a responsible and positive answer to the appeal of the President of the Republic”, said Draghi, following a meeting with Mattarella at noon on Wednesday.

PROFILE: Could 'Super Mario' Draghi lead Italy out of its crisis?

Draghi will now try to create a coalition to replace that led by outgoing premier Giuseppe Conte.

The Milan stock market opened 2.3 percent higher on Wednesday following the news Draghi was being considered for the top job.

President Sergio Mattarella called in Draghi for talks after Italy's ruling parties failed to agree on a new government following a split last month that forced Conte to resign.

Draghi, an Italian economist credited with saving the eurozone at the height of the debt crisis in 2012, is expected to try to put together a 'government of national unity' to navigate the still-raging pandemic.

Alongside the ever-mounting death toll, the country's economy shrank 8.9 percent in 2020 – the biggest slump since the end of World War II.

Mattarella has stressed the urgency of creating a stable government and avoiding elections during the pandemic, which hit Italy first among European nations and has been devastating.

Draghi, dubbed “Super Mario”, has long been cited by political watchers as the man to see Italy through the coming months.
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 said, adding that it would likely find support among lawmakers.
But everything still depends on whether the economist can  secure a majority of support among lawmakers, before submitting to a vote of confidence in parliament.
So far the Democratic Party appears on board, as does Renzi, but the Five Star Movement (M5S), the biggest party in parliament once defined by its euroscepticism and anti-“elite” stance, is split.
One of the M5S leaders, Vito Crimi, warned: “This type of executive has already been adopted in the past, with extremely negative consequences for Italian citizens.”

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Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.