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Stay or go? Italy’s parliament to vote on PM Draghi’s fate

Italian Prime Minister Mario Dragh faced a crucial confidence vote on Wednesday night to end a political crisis that could trigger early elections.

Stay or go? Italy's parliament to vote on PM Draghi's fate
Italy's Prime Minister Mario Draghi after addressing the Senate on July 20th in a last attempt to resolve the government crisis. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Italy waited on Wednesday to hear whether elections loomed, as the country’s fractious parties furiously debated whether to support Draghi and his appeal for a new “pact of trust”.

Now was not the time for uncertainty within the eurozone’s third largest economy, amid domestic and geopolitical challenges from a struggling economy to the Ukraine war, Draghi earlier told the Senate.

READ ALSO: What does Italy’s latest political crisis mean for the economy?

The premier threw the onus on parties across the political spectrum to put aside their differences and join together as it had in February 2021 when Draghi took the helm of a newly formed unity government to address Italy’s myriad challenges, from coronavirus to the economy.

“The only way forward if we want to stay together is to rebuild afresh this (government) pact with courage, selflessness, credibility,” Draghi told the Senate.

“Are you ready? … You don’t owe this answer to me, but to all Italians”.

The stern speech by a usually softly-spoken Draghi suggested that the former leader of the European Central Bank was prepared to stay – but on one condition: if the wildly disparate parties pledge anew to a common agenda.

READ ALSO: ‘We need stability’: Calls grow for Italy’s Draghi to stay on as PM

The crisis was sparked by the refusal by the Five Star Movement, a coalition member, to opt out of a confidence vote.

Parliamentarians will now debate for over five hours, setting out their positions. Draghi will then respond, before a vote later Wednesday.

If he survives all that, the process will be repeated in the lower house on Thursday.

Otherwise, Italy’s president could dissolve parliament and call elections for September or October.

After Draghi attempted to resign from his post on Thursday, the president urged him to go to parliament to find out whether his fractured coalition can be saved – or if snap elections are unavoidable.

There’s a lot at stake: a government collapse at a time of soaring inflation could delay the budget, threaten EU post-pandemic recovery funds and send jittery markets into a tailspin.

READ ALSO: What’s changing under Italy’s post-pandemic recovery plan

Polls suggest most Italians want Draghi, 74, to stay at the helm of the eurozone’s third-largest economy until the scheduled general election in May next year.

Parties on the centre-left have said they will support Draghi, but a question mark remains over right-leaning Forza Italia and the League, which have ruled out staying in government with Five Star.

“We are in the middle of an Italian-style political crisis, so predictions change utterly from one second to the next,” Giovanni Orsina, head of the Luiss School of Government in Rome, told AFP.

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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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