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POLITICS

Mario Draghi wins political support to become Italy’s new PM

Italy could have a new government within days after economist Mario Draghi secured the support of most Italian political parties.

Mario Draghi wins political support to become Italy's new PM
Former head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi at the Quirinale presidentia palace last week. Photo: AFP

With almost all political parties behind him, Mario Draghi on Friday entered the final stage of forming a new Italian government.

The former European Central Bank chief, called in after the outgoing centre-left coalition collapsed, could visit President Sergio Mattarella as early as Friday to be officially named prime minister.

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

Draghi has spent the last nine days garnering support from Italy's political parties, with the aim of forming a 'government of national unity' to manage the deadly pandemic that hit Italy almost exactly one year ago, triggering a deep recession.

After securing the support late Thursday of the last key party, the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), Draghi has almost all the main parties on
board.

“The Draghi government is born,” headlined Rome-based daily Il Messaggero, while the Corriere Della Sera led with “Draghi in the home stretch.”

However, the 73-year-old economist has shown he is willing to take his time, and could yet take a few more days to finalise his cabinet.

Even if Draghi invites figures from outside politics onto his team, as he is expected to do, he still needs to get the agreement of a majority of lawmakers. He has been negotiating with Italy's various political parties since last week on a possible deal.

Italy has high hopes for Draghi, dubbed Super Mario after vowing to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro single currency in the 2010s debt crisis.

Mattarella asked him to step in on February 3rd after outgoing premier Giuseppe Conte resigned following weeks of political turmoil.

EXPLAINED: How are Italy's prime ministers chosen?

Outgoing Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte. Photo: AFP

Italy has been without a fully functioning government for almost a month since former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party from Conte's coalition, triggering its collapse.

Conte resigned in hopes of putting together a new coalition and returning at its head, but this didn't happen. After failed talks, President Sergio Mattarella – who as head of state is refereeing the negotiations – called time and summoned former head banker Mario Draghi to form a new government.

Draghi's arrival was greeted with delight on the financial markets – Italy's borrowing costs dropped to a historic low this week – but the task facing him is huge.

The president has emphasised the urgency of moving quickly to fill the political vacuum, as Italy approaches the milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths and the task of

As the new PM, Draghi would need to decide how to spend more than 200 billion euros ($243 billion) in grants and loans from the European Union's recovery fund to help it get back on its feet.

Draghi will have to balance demands for immediate relief against the need for long-term structural reforms in Italy – tensions that brought down the last government.

Meanwhile unemployment – at 426,000 higher than one year ago – risks rising further later this year, if an existing freeze on job dismissals is not extended.

Another priority is speeding up Italy's coronavirus vaccination programme, which made a promising start in December but has since slowed, against a backdrop of rising concern about the spread of new variants.

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ENERGY

Italy’s Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian PM Mario Draghi condemned Germany’s €200-billion energy-prices shield, saying EU ‘must act together’.

Italy's Draghi criticises Germany over latest energy plan

Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his likely successor have criticised Germany’s 200-billion move to shield its citizens from rising energy prices, saying Europe must act together to tackle the energy crisis.

“Faced with the common threats of our times, we cannot divide ourselves according to the amount of room in our national budgets,” Draghi said in a press release on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Electricity bills in Italy to rise by 59 percent, warns power regulator

The statement came after Germany introduced a 200-billion ($194-billion) shield to protect households and businesses from soaring energy prices, 

The measure was Germany’s move in what the country’s Finance Minister Christian Lindner described as an “energy war over prosperity and freedom” with Russia.

“The energy crisis requires a response from Europe to reduce costs for families and businesses, to limit exceptional gains made by producers and importers, […] and to keep Europe united once against in the face of an emergency,” Draghi said, commenting on Germany’s move.

At a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Friday, Italy’s Roberto Cingolani reiterated Rome’s support for an EU-wide cap on the price of gas – something Draghi has long been calling for.

“Everyone has recognised that there is a priority at the moment, which is to bring down the cost of gas. But there is also a second priority, [that is] to avoid creating a shortage of gas in doing so,” Cingolani said.

READ ALSO: Portofino mayor offers residents €400 to offset energy bills

Draghi will only be in office for a few more weeks, after which he will likely be replaced by Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party triumphed at last Sunday’s elections.

Like Draghi, Meloni has backed the idea of a European price cap thus far. 

Ahead of Friday’s energy meeting in Brussels, the soon-to-be new Italian PM also appeared to criticise Germany as she called for “an immediate European response” to the energy crisis.

“No member state can offer effective and long-term solutions on its own in the absence of a common strategy, not even those that appear less financially vulnerable,” she added.

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