Mario Draghi becomes Italy's new prime minister after weeks of infighting

Brenda Watkins
February 13, 2021

Italy's Prime Minister, Mario Draghi arrives on February 13, 2021 for a formal swearing-in ceremony of his government at the Quirinale presidential palace in Rome.

Members of Italy's 5-Star Movement voted on Thursday to back Prime Minister designate Mario Draghi, opening the way for the former European Central Bank chief to take office at the head of a broad government of national unity.

Daniele Franco, the current director-general of the Bank of Italy who belongs to no political party, has been tapped as the new Finance minister.

After meeting with President Sergio Mattarella to formally accept the appointment, Draghi spoke only to list the names of his ministers, a mix of politicians and technocrats.

The swearing in of the veteran economist comes after he formally accepted the mandate from President Sergio Mattarella to be Italy's new premier and put together a a government following the collapse of the coalition led byGiuseppe Conte.

Nicknamed "Super Mario", Mr Draghi has significant support... for now.

Draghi will be presented to the upper-house Senate on Wednesday followed by the Chamber of Deputies on Thursday for a confidence vote that will give the final official blessing to his government.

Nearly all the main parties are behind him, from leftists to Matteo Salvini's far-right League, and including the populist Five Star Movement (M5S), the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italia Viva, who shared power before.

Born as an anti-establishment movement, the Movement was already splintering after being the lead party in back-to-back Conte governments since 2018 - one right-leaning and the other left-leaning.

He also reportedly promised to create a powerful ministry for ecological transition, a move that helped win over support from 5-Star for whom environmentalism is a core concern.

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In an Ipsos poll published in the Corriere della Sera daily on Saturday, 62 percent of those surveyed said they supported Draghi.

Italy has high hopes for its new leader, who famously said he would do "whatever it takes" to save the eurozone in the midst of the 2010s debt crisis.

The economy shrank by a staggering 8.9 per cent past year, while Covid-19 remains rife and restrictions including a night curfew and the closure of bars and restaurants in the evening remain in place.

The virus remains rife and Conte's cabinet, in one of its last acts, tightened curbs in four regions and extended a ban on travelling between regions.

Italy is at a critical juncture as it battles the health and economic consequences of the pandemic, which struck Italy first outside of Asia nearly exactly one year ago.

Italy must also finalize its plan on how to use over 200 billion euros in grants and low-interest loans it is set to get from the EU's COVID-19 Recovery Fund.

But disputes over how to spend the money, between demands for longstanding structural reform and short-term stimulus, brought down the previous government.

"But spending funds is not enough", noted Scazzieri, adding that the new premier "will find it just as challenging to enact long-called for reforms". He headed the European Central Bank for eight years from 2011.

It is Italy's worst recession since World War II.

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