Italian prime minister threatens to resign as political crisis spirals

Italian prime minister Mario Draghi threatened to resign Thursday after a major political party withdrew its support for his government.

Draghi went to the Quirinal Palace in Rome to resign, but President Sergio Mattarella refused, the BBC reported.

Italian prime minister threatens resignation

Draghi has led a national unity government — meaning a coalition of all the main parties — since February 2021. He was tapped by Mattarella to lead Italy through the economic recovery from COVID.

Mattarella rejected Draghi’s resignation and told the prime minister to work with Parliament to keep the coalition from collapsing.

The coalition is buckling after the populist Five Star Movement, led by Draghi’s predecessor Giuseppe Conte, refused to partake in a confidence vote.

Five Star said that a 23-billion-euro bill for families struggling with inflation didn’t go far enough. The party also objected to a proposal to build a large garbage incinerator in Rome for ecological reasons. While the Draghi cabinet survived the vote, Draghi has said he won’t work without Five Star’s support.

“Today’s votes in Parliament are very significant from a political point of view. The national unity majority that supported this government since its creation no longer exists,” Draghi said.

Italy in crisis

The prospect of Draghi’s government collapsing roiled Italian markets and sparked concern in Brussels, where an official said the European Union was “following with worried astonishment.” Draghi led the European Central Bank (ECB) during the European debt crisis.

Center-right senator Antonio Saccone said that Five Star was destabilizing Italy and “doing a favor” for Vladimir Putin as Europe struggles to remain unified against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Five Star has opposed sending weapons to Ukraine.

The Five Star Movement is an anti-establishment party that rejects leftist or rightist labels. Some observers including former Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, who broke away from the party after clashing with Conte over Ukraine policy, have accused Five Star of a political ploy to rebuild support it has lost.

“5-Star’s leaders have been planning this for months to put an end to the Draghi government,” Di Maio, who is Italy’s Foreign Minister, said. “They are hoping to launch a 9-month election campaign to improve their poll standings.”

Italy has elections scheduled in 2023, but if Draghi’s coalition falls apart then Mattarella could call a snap election in the fall.

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